When our world was turned upside down back in March, my staff and I started discussing what we could do to help our community. Having lived through many crises in Israel, Kim Banaji shared with me one of her most memorable images. During the Gulf War, Israeli media brought the country together, with Israeli celebrities and personalities, to keep the country’s spirits up with messages of hope and good feelings. We knew that maybe the Jewish Federation could do something like this with our weekly emails.
We wanted to share with our community similar messages of hope while we all were dealing with the fear and uncertainty of COVID-19. In one of my early messages, I shared one of my favorite quotes of Mr. Rogers, a quote that his mother used to tell him to help him deal with difficult situations like the one we find ourselves in now: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
One thing I am not sure I have shared before is that I am an eternal optimist. I look for the good in almost every situation and believe that things are not always as bad as they seem. So, for me, as we deal with something like what we are experiencing now… something none of us has ever had to deal with in our lifetimes, I have looked for the good that has been happening all around.
As an example, being forced to work from home, I have had the incredible joy of working side by side with my daughters as they have been doing their schoolwork. Now, it has not always been easy, but this is time that I would never have gotten to spend with them if we were not under the state’s “Safer at Home” order.
I believe we can see the good in society during this crisis by looking around and trying to find it. We are seeing people getting closer to their neighbors in ways that they never have before. People are reaching out to check in with those they know are alone and have compromised immune systems or are older, many times offering to pick up food or supplies that they otherwise might not be able to get. We are seeing birthday parades to help children celebrate a birthday they will never forget.
When I have gone out on walks in my neighborhood, I have noticed that people seem to be friendlier. I am seeing more smiles, even behind our newest COVID-19 accessory… our face masks. Speaking of face masks… who knew so many people still knew how to sew. Better yet… were willing to learn because they knew it could help someone else.
We are also seeing a deeper appreciation for doctors, nurses, medical staff and first responders, as well as the unsung heroes who have finally been recognized for the important work they do…. people like grocery workers, truck drivers, and others. These are people who normally get taken for granted because we fail to stop and think about all of the people that are part of the chain of how food gets onto our tables each day.
After all of this is done, and we have gotten our lives back our new “normal,” even if we need to continue some social distancing or wearing masks, I am hopeful that we all appreciate things that we used to take for granted, like dinners at home with friends or something as simple as a hug from a friend.
I understand that there is no way to know when this will happen, and most likely, we have more challenging times ahead. However, I hope that the acts of kindness and connections people have developed during this pandemic will stay with us for a very long time.
I know that I would love to continue to find teddy bears in windows or chalk rainbows on the sidewalk when I walk around my neighborhood. It would continue to bring a smile to my face.
JASON MOSS is Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.