COVID-19 Stories to smile about

Author: Kate Cross

From arguments over toilet paper to racial slurs, it hasn’t always been a pretty picture of the coronavirus.


Back in February, The Conversation reported “mistrust, fear and outright racism” amid the virus while in March, the ABC told of a Sydney brawl between two women over in-demand toilet paper. If you missed it, a video of the exchange went viral on social media, adding to the crude picture.


While abhorrent behaviour might be, and in most cases is, inexcusable, Counselling Psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip explains that “when people experience fear and the unknown, they leap into defence mode to protect themselves against others and any threat”.


This is what happens “when we witness insensitive behaviour”, she adds.


“While the majority of people are kind, respectable and caring, distress and uncertainty escalate egocentric behaviour,” says Dr Phillip, a World Kindness Ambassador.


The silver lining


Among the bleak news reports, visible panic and sheer tragedy surrounding COVID-19 have been acts of kindness that have helped offset some of the madness.


Take the story of swim school Owner and Director Julia Ham, who said that keeping her staff employed before the enforced closure of her Queensland business was “challenging” because of client dropouts. She received an email from one of the swim school’s parents which, she said, “restored a little bit of faith in humanity”.


“Hey ….” said the email. “Please DO NOT cancel our payments. While we’ve made the decision for [our child] not to attend lessons for now, we also understand the impact that cancellations will have on your business … You guys have been good to us. We’ve got to stick together …”


In South Africa, Johannesburg-based Bruce Little said following the outbreak of COVID-19, his Brixton community formed a group called Brixton Beautiful. Those with the means volunteered to collect and deliver groceries and medication plus offer donations and free soup and other resources to the elderly and vulnerable.


“I have always been proud of how we support one another whenever we can,” said the Content Manager.


According to Dr Phillip, “when we become more sensitive to the plight and hardship of others, we support how we can”. 


COVID-19, she says, has directly impacted everyone, so while some have acted in a “‘I or Me’ capacity”, most have accepted “this is a ‘We and Us’ matter which brings out our finest and most virtuous qualities”. 


The trick, she says, to lessen the bad behaviour and promote the good is to focus greater attention on the latter.

“We have seen too many reports on panic, shopping frenzies and rudeness reported; this drives people to mimic this behaviour often due to fear,” explains Dr Phillip. 


“If media reported and displayed more acts of kindness … [and] plentiful supplies in stores, this would generate more imitating behaviours of consideration and compassion as the fear is diminished.”


On that note, perhaps a few more uplifting stories are in order …


The supermarket hero


When Alyce Murdoch needed baby wipes, she headed to her local supermarket and found “absolutely nothing!”. The mum of two asked a staff member to check the stock room but when the worker returned, she was greeted with a packet that didn’t contain many wipes and cost a pricey AUD6.50.


Politely declining the wipes, explaining that she’d look for cheaper ones elsewhere, Ms Murdoch wrote on social media that as she was leaving “the manager came up to me because he overheard what happened and said, ‘Here are the wipes, they are on me!’ Then [he] took out the pack of nappies from my trolley that I was buying and said, ‘So are these!’.”


“I couldn't believe it! Thank you for being so kind,” she said.


Gratitude with chocolates


Another supermarket act of kindness was shared via social media by Emma Saunders-Cincotta: “This afternoon we decided a random act of kindness was required! We ducked into our local Coles and bought boxes of chocolates. Much to their complete surprise, we handed them in to the service desk staff and said ‘These are for your staff. Thank you, thank you for trying to look after everyone and keep the shelves stocked, getting abused for it and still coming to work!’ They cried and said that was the most wonderful thing that had happened in the last couple of weeks.”


Restaurant generosity


Despite restaurants being financially impacted by the COVID-19 ban on table service (but not takeaway in Australia), La Tienda Melbourne still responded with a ‘sharing is caring’ approach, offering a free meal to those struggling in the community. 


“We had 52 people show up and collect a dinner box to take home,” said owner John Gomez of the first night they offered the free service.


The aim, he said, was to help “the casual and part-time workers that have lost their jobs and can do with a wholesome healthy meal”.


Neighbourly support


Andrea Ashley-Brown considers herself “super lucky” to have “awesome neighbours”.


Living in a block of around 25 flats, Ms Ashley-Brown said her neighbours started using the apartment block’s closed Facebook page as a “let’s look after each other place” when COVID-19 hit.


“People were dropping off food … monitors, chairs to the people that were stuck inside. We’ve been doing book swaps ... There’s a roster to do disinfecting of the handrails and doorknobs inside of the apartment block,” she explained.


“Quite a few people in the block have lost jobs so we’re able to share a bit of moral support [via the page too],” she added.


Ms Ashley-Brown said she “met quite a few people” she didn’t know and felt “very privileged” to have such a strong support network.


Got a COVID-19 act of kindness? Please share




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