21 Moving Photos of Kindness in the Time of Coronavirus
Tough times can truly bring out the best in people.
Simple acts of kindness can make a big difference
Life is challenging right now on every level. We’re bouncing between fear, anxiety, and uncertainty as coronavirus disrupts our daily lives and poses a threat to ourselves and our loved ones. But despite all of this—or, perhaps, because of it—some people have been exhibiting extraordinary kindness, as well as creating a new sense of community. Neighbours are helping neighbours, doing what they can to make life a little easier for them or simply bring a smile to their faces. Some are going above and beyond for family members, while others are helping complete strangers, and those formerly content to stay on the sidelines are stepping up to pitch in.
These stories will certainly warm your heart, and they also might inspire you to come up with your own ideas to make someone’s day a little brighter.
Ending each day on a happy note
Last month, Chris and Kristine Munselle were scrolling through the community app NextDoor and noticed that their North Dallas neighbours were posting about teddy-bear walks and scavenger hunts—little things that could make people smile while everyone stayed appropriately socially distanced. That’s when they got the idea to start virtual-carolling. A few days before a stay-at-home order was announced in the area, they practiced on their front porch while their four children played outside. Then they posted a few of their videos on NextDoor. The response for “The Quarantones” was overwhelming. “You are fantastic people!” wrote one neighbour. “This made my day!” said another.
Since then, the Munselles, who met in high school 22 years ago, have challenged themselves to sing and post one song a day on their YouTube channel. They welcome requests from neighbours through NextDoor and texts. “If it’s an uplifting song that is semi-easy to learn in an hour, we play the requests,” says Chris. Even after the shelter-in-place order is lifted, the couple plans to continue posting one or two songs each week. “We have had so much fun doing this,” he explains. “We love that it is bringing joy and putting smiles on our neighbours’ and friends’ faces.”
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Cheering up neighbours through art
Artist Dana Primrose Bloede was looking for a way to brighten her neighbours’ days during this tough time. So, one morning, she set up a white folding table in front of her townhouse and laid out dozens of woodblock prints of original art that she had created in her home studio. Next to the mixed-media pieces— each of which was individually wrapped—she placed a sign that read: “Free Art (Take One).”
Throughout the day, from her second-story window, she watched joggers run by and then loop back and select one of the six-by-nine-inch pieces. Moms pushing their children in strollers stopped by the table and left with a print. Observing the six-foot rule, no one crowded the table. “Surprisingly, people were loving it even more than I imagined,” says Bloede. “I was so happy to see people’s excited reactions.”
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Brightening the neighbourhood with balloon sculptures
Months after Christmas decorations were packed away, families across the United States reopened those boxes and decorated their homes with colourful lights to spread some much-needed cheer. Patty Jurgielewicz took a different approach by creating a balloon sculpture of three gremlins. Instead of displaying it in front of her rural home, she placed it at the end of her street with a sign that read: “Be Safe.” Her next sculpture was a huge ice cream cone with sprinkles on top and a sign that read, “Have a sweet day.”
She makes new designs daily, replacing the one from the day before with a new one. On the rare days the balloons survive the cold and rain, she’ll move the sculpture to the other end of the street so others in her Easton, Connecticut, neighbourhood can enjoy it. “The response has been overwhelmingly unbelievable,” says Jurgielewicz. “If I can bring a little bit of joy in these times, it’s all been worth it.”
Organizing locally prepared meals for health care workers
“When we love someone and want to express that, we cook for people,” says Theresa Sullivan. Knowing that she couldn’t provide home-cooked meals to all of the doctors and nurses battling coronavirus at her local hospital in Huntington, New York, she and her husband devised another plan based on that sentiment. They created the Facebook group, Huntington Hospital Meals to coordinate with local restaurants to deliver food to 45 departments within the hospital across four different shifts. To date, they have raised about $150,000 on their Facebook page, and various restaurants have served more than 10,000 meals to the hospital’s staff.
Their project serves a second purpose, as well: to keep local restaurants in business. The response to their project has been infectious (in a good way). Since mid-March, the Sullivans have also helped people in other states start similar versions within their communities.
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Celebrating the last day of chemo
Azure Miller started her breast-cancer journey in January 2019, and it was a tough road. To celebrate her last day of chemotherapy, her family and friends had planned a balloon launch at the hospital. When the order to practice social distancing went into effect, their plans changed, but not their eagerness to honour Miller’s major milestone. Her mother and a few friends sent texts to close friends and neighbours, asking them to help them execute another plan.
On her way home from the hospital, the mom of three was greeted to a surprise: 40 cars lining her street in Overland Park, Kansas. Family and friends, all maintaining the six-foot social distancing guidelines, held signs, honked their horns, waved, and cheered. “I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotions and beyond grateful to be surprised by so many amazing friends and family,” she says of that special moment. “I am humbled to have so many caring people in my life.”
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Helping a parent fight loneliness
Four weeks into lockdown, when Katrina Kittle was on her daily phone call with her 78-year-old dad, she jokingly asked him: “Are you bored yet?” His answer broke her heart. “I’m lonely,” he answered. Truman Kittle had lost his wife of 57 years in January and had moved to an independent-living apartment in Dayton, Ohio, a few weeks before the coronavirus outbreak. Shortly after his move, his community had gone into lockdown.
The day after that phone call, his daughter reached out to her friends and followers on Facebook. She asked them to send mail to her dad to boost his spirits. Within days, both close friends and people she barely knew responded with books, poems, lists of jokes, and funny cards. He has loved receiving these little tokens of kindness, and when he doesn’t know the sender, he reaches out to his daughter to ask about the person. “Someday,” she says, “I’ll get to sit beside him and go through the pile together.”
Providing relief to health care workers
Kelsey Brown was searching for a way to help during the coronavirus outbreak when a friend sent her a video about making ear savers. Inspired by another friend who worked in health care and had been getting migraines and raw ears from long hours of wearing a mask, Brown got to work. From her Pennsylvania home, she started transforming plastic folders and placements into comfort and relief for the health care workers. Using a Cricut machine, she makes adapters that keep the elastic from digging into the back of a wearer’s ears. Sometimes she also adds inspirational words to them, she says, “so that when a patient sees the back of the nurse’s head when they are leaving the room, they know to ‘keep fighting!'”
So far, Brown has given away 200 ear guards at no charge and will continue to make and distribute them for free. Recently, she responded to more than 70 emails from Cricut users around the country who were eager to learn how to make them. She forwarded instructions and posted a video on Instagram to further explain the process.
Making memories, one porch at a time
Before stay-at-home orders were issued in Green Bay, Wisconsin, photographer Rachael Phillips—donning a face mask and using a 70-200mm lens—captured images of families on their front porches while standing 20 feet away. The sessions were part of a national program called the “Front Steps Project.” Started by two photographers in Massachusetts, the project’s goal is “to highlight the faces of our community during a time when we might not see them in passing at the grocery store, coffee shop, on the train or at the gym.”
It is also a way to help local community organizations. Phillips is one of the hundreds of photographers around the country donating their fees from each five-minute session to food pantries, shelters, and other nonprofits. When Phillips embarked on this project, she expected to raise a few hundred dollars for the Freedom House. Instead, she ended up photographing more than 100 families over three weeks and donated $2,000. She’ll resume the portraits after the stay-at-home order is lifted.
Helping the homeless stay safe
We’re constantly being reminded to wash our hands to help fight the spread of the coronavirus. But what about the homeless, who don’t have regular access to water? Through his nonprofit, Love Beyond Walls, Terence Lester and his team of volunteers have been placing portable sinks throughout Atlanta, Georgia. They also clean all the units and refill them daily with water and soap. When they first started, the reaction was immediate.
“People started washing their hands and expressed gratitude for this opportunity they haven’t been given,” Lester wrote on his blog. “Since handwashing is a requirement, this is our small effort to protect people experiencing homelessness.” The group has raised funds for 30 sinks through its “Love Sinks In” campaign and hopes to install 100 around the city.
Offering food to anyone who needs it
Food banks, places of worship, and various agencies strive to treat clients with dignity, but asking for help isn’t always easy. That’s why Jeremy Lowe, from Wadsworth, Ohio, devised an alternative: Free Pantries. These birdhouse-like structures—which tell people to “take what you need, leave what you can”—serve as an anonymous way to give and receive food.
The idea came about the day that Lowe had to temporarily close his business, Must Love Dogs Daycare & Spa, due to the crisis. He challenged everyone at work to do something kind for a neighbour, and following his own advice, Lowe and his son, Caeden, built 10 free pantries and installed them around town. Now, nearly every day, he and his family restock six or seven of the structures. They receive donations through porch pickups and Facebook challenges under the hashtag #wadsworthstrong. Lowe’s idea continues to grow with free pantries popping up in nearby cities and several states, including Michigan, Illinois, California, and Arkansas.
Making protective gear for those on the front lines
Former pediatric nurse Stacey Hatton worried about her friends working at various Kansas City-area hospitals, so she started making homemade face masks to protect the nurses she’d worked with years before, as well as others on the front lines. Frustrated by how long it was taking to make each mask, she put out a request on Facebook for some extra manpower—or mom-power, as it turned out. Moms rushed in to help by donating money and supplies, cutting and sewing fabric and delivering the masks. Hatton then started the Facebook group JoCo Moms Mask Army to organize everyone’s efforts. “We know we are saving lives one mask at a time,” she says. So far, Hatton and crew have delivered more than 450 of the colourful masks to hospitals, police departments, and retirement homes.
Find out how to make a DIY face mask of your own!
Doling out hand sanitizer for free
At the start of the pandemic, Tom Murray, co-owner of MurLarkey Distilled Spirits, was inundated with calls from people who were looking for hand sanitizer. But the in-demand and hard-to-find item wasn’t part of the craft distillery’s inventory. After receiving more calls, Murray and his team decided that maybe it should be. After making a batch of hand sanitizer and distributing it to the community and family members, the company started manufacturing this essential item for EMS workers, first responders, health care organizations, hospitals, and essential businesses in Northern Virginia.
With each new large order, the distillery creates additional hand sanitizer at its own expense and hands out 500 individual-size bottles over a two-week period, at no charge to the local community. Murray says that they plan to distribute another 300 to 400 four-ounce bottles to the community, at no charge, through their makeshift drive-through. “It’s the right thing to do,” he explains. “The average person still can’t find hand sanitizer.”
Making house calls as the Easter Bunny
Adam Scher, an internal medicine doctor, has been working overtime for weeks. But he took a few minutes out of a busy day recently to bring joy to his Greenville, South Carolina, neighbourhood. Dressed as the Easter Bunny, the local doctor waved at children and tossed eggs onto their lawns—from a safe distance, of course. What began as a way to make his two young daughters smile and to foster a sense of normalcy during the pandemic turned into a visit to all the neighbourhood kids and adults. The families smiled and gave him high fives across the windows while laughing and dancing along. “Mail carriers and FedEx drivers danced from their trucks, too,” says Scher. “We all had a great time.”
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Motivating the neighbourhood to get moving
When Heather Doney’s neighbour sent her a text that said, “Time for you to bring out your old Zumba routines and teach us in the backyard,” she readily agreed. She hadn’t taught fitness classes in a couple of years due to health issues, but she was well enough to provide a little joy and movement before the start of the quarantine.
She set up speakers on her neighbour’s porch to make it easier for everyone to see her, and with a megaphone in hand, Doney led her Utah neighbours through various routines. Families on patios, in their backyards, and even inside followed along. Still, she never expected that the video her husband shared online would go viral. “We had such a good time moving to the music and getting fresh air!” says Doney. “I’ve realized that this is what people need right now. They need to see that there are good things still happening in the world.”
Spreading love through sticky notes
At the start of San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order, Nick Munro used sticky notes to create a heart on his window. A few hours later, his neighbour across the street responded with a heart. Moved by the gesture, he posted the photo of their exchange on NextDoor and wrote, “Show your neighbours some love today.” During the next few weeks, hundreds of people in the neighbourhood shared pictures of their own sticky hearts, some including their pets or favorite stuffed animals. As Munro explains, the message is universal: “Even though we’re apart, we’ll be there for each other.” He and his wife often spot new hearts in windows during their morning runs at safe social distances. While other communities have done similar things, Munro says, “It’s nice to know we helped start something in our small patch of the Earth.”
Have you been touched by an act of kindness during the lockdown? Show your gratitude by nominating someone for a Reader’s Digest Kindness Award.
Going above and beyond to help restaurant workers
The night before restaurants were ordered to shut down, a local news crew filmed a story at Irma’s Southwest about the potential impact on restaurants in Houston, Texas. Later that evening, after the story aired, two loyal customers enjoyed dinner at the restaurant, and instead of leaving a standard tip, they left $9,500 to share between the restaurant’s bartenders, servers, and kitchen staff. The next morning, operations manager Nick Galvan handed out roughly $300 per person to help his staff make it through the week. And throughout this ordeal, the restaurant has stayed open, providing takeout service for the surrounding neighbourhood. “People care about us, and for that reason, we have to do this for them,” Galvan says.
Lifting students’ spirits
When schools closed in Ronan, Montana, drama teacher Jessica Davis was worried. She didn’t want her students to think that teachers wouldn’t be available to help them. “It can be very detrimental if our students do not see or hear from us during such times as these,” explains Davis, who teaches middle school and high school. Hoping to provide students with a bit of levity and laughter, she contacted teachers, staff, and administrators to help her collaborate on a video.
A total of 23 teachers from all levels (elementary, middle school, and high school), secretaries, and administrators filmed snippets from their respective homes, while Davis handled the editing. A few dressed in wild outfits or wore sunglasses, and all lip-synced to songs with a central theme: making it through a difficult time. The video was a hit—the students and parents loved seeing their teachers out of their comfort zones. And the teachers loved showing how much they cared about their students and the community.
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Providing a colourful welcome for hospital workers
Four families found a colourful way to thank health care workers at Sycamore Kettering Medical Center in Miamisburg, Ohio. Using sidewalk chalk, children drew hearts, rainbows, and flowers, and wrote thank you’s and inspiring messages. They created the artwork outside the main entrance while maintaining a proper amount of social distance from one another and anyone else who walked by. Candi Rambo was inspired to organize the effort after her mom shared pictures of the chalk drawings outside of the hospital where she works. Rambo later posted photos, along with this note to health care workers: “Hope your walk into the hospital brings you some happiness and joy!”
Paying it forward
In mid-March, on her way home from work as a preschool and after-care teacher in Mesa, Arizona, Joyce Singleton received a series of calls and texts with unsettling news: Her workplace was being closed indefinitely. An hour later, while driving through pouring rain and lightning, things went from bad to worse—she got a flat tire. Although Discount Tire was closed when she pulled into the parking lot, the workers agreed to help her. While she was on the phone, trying to figure out how she would pay for the unexpected expense, Adam Lurie, a stranger, overheard her conversation and insisted on covering the cost. While making partial payment for the tire, he asked Singleton to enter her number in his phone.
Two days later, Lurie called to tell her about a Go Fund Me account that he and his friends had set up to help her. He then returned to the store and paid off the rest of the tire. His actions not only helped Singleton but others as well. In the following days, Singleton did her part to help others through the pandemic, delivering supplies and food boxes to various elderly friends who were unable to leave their homes.
Lurie’s gesture meant so much to her, on so many levels. “It really restores your faith in humanity,” Singleton says. “There really are good people out there who care for you, and it meant so much to me and everyone!”
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Celebrating milestones in wonderful ways
A 70th birthday is a big deal, which is why Corrine Tripamer was disappointed when she had to cancel her plans because of coronavirus. She was even more disappointed to learn that the dinner she’d thought she was having was actually a ruse and that her family had organized a surprise party at her favorite restaurant in Romeoville, Illinois.
That’s when a friend stepped in to provide a different type of surprise. She decorated Tripamer’s lawn with pink pinwheels and flamingos late one night, and Tripamer woke up to the fun, festive scene the next morning. “I was just so excited that someone who wasn’t a member of my family went to such an effort to make my birthday special,” says Tripamer. Later that day, her children and grandchildren gathered on her lawn, a safe distance away, to sing, “Happy Birthday” to her.
Showing thanks in the sweetest way possible
A chocolate shop in Saugus, Massachusetts, made the week before Easter a little sweeter for health care workers and emergency responders. Russo’s Fine Chocolates loaded up three vans with chocolate bunnies, cream-filled eggs, and Easter baskets stuffed with even more chocolate. The owner of the shop, Vincent Vannah, regularly contributes to food banks, but with the outbreak of the coronavirus, he specifically wanted to thank health care workers and first responders for their efforts. So, he had the high-end treats distributed to three neighbouring hospitals and a local fire station.
Next, here are the things you should do for yourself during self-quarantine.