Glimmers of hope and community in trying times

Sidewalk words of encouragement PHOTO: DAN CHOOK REID

By Dan Chook Reid

Many of us agree that 2020 has been difficult. It will be remembered as a year when the coronavirus interrupted the course of history. Humanity is going through great stress. Obviously, there is the strain on the healthcare system and the lives of those who suffer. However, there are many other reasons that COVID-19 is difficult. The closing of businesses, job losses, limits on social gatherings, isolation, outbreaks in long-term care homes, day cares and schools, fears for our loved ones – the pandemic is affecting all of us in some way.

The magnitude of loss and fear is taking a toll. Many are struggling with mental health issues, addictions are on the rise and domestic violence is increasing. It will take years to understand the full impact of the pandemic on society. These COVID-19 stressors come at a time when racial injustice and reconciliation are also at the forefront of our attention with jarring examples of the systemic inequalities in our world. All the while, climate change impacts are deepening, with many calling for a renewed green recovery.

Through this difficult time, I am grateful for the Glebe. Despite adversity, Glebites are responding beautifully with creativity and kindness.

In the spring, local parents shared ideas on how to engage kids. A scavenger 
hunt was created. Kids displayed pictures based on different themes – words of encouragement, happy faces and animals, to name just a few. Children ran through the neighbourhood to see how many images they could find. It brought a smile to my face to see how simple acts could bring such joy.

In addition, neighbours on Glebe and Third Avenues (and likely others) organized noise-making sessions to cheer on health-care and other frontline workers. These informal efforts created a sense of unity and connection among neighbours while honouring those serving us.

Even some of our youngest residents contributed to the community. A Mutchmor kindergarten class, the Alligators, illustrated pictures for the book Garden Song and displayed their work in Metro. Children’s artwork provides a sense of home and comfort.

Community is also fostered in our Buy Nothing and Being Neighbourly Facebook groups. Residents continually share stories, needs and ways to care for each other by offering goods, advice and support. One local woman even credits her new home to these groups. When her landlord announced that her home would be sold, she panicked. After posting in the group, she got a message about a home being sold privately. Her family ended up staying in the neighbourhood without having to compete in Ottawa’s red-hot housing market.

There are more stories I could tell: bananas given to a neighbour the day she was laid off without pay; a bagpiper who warms hearts of listeners; residents who intentionally get takeout from every small restaurant in the Glebe. Glebites repeatedly display kindness and commitment.

And the pandemic is not over. A second wave is upon us, case numbers are rising and tighter restrictions have been re-imposed.

Fear creeps in. Will schools close again? Will relatives in long-term care be safe? Will frontline workers be properly equipped? Will loved ones get sick? It is more important now than ever that we continue to follow health guidelines, wear masks and practise regular hand washing. With these helpful actions, many still wonder if they are doing enough. Is there more we can do?

In this difficult time, it is understandable to have days you are not okay. The pandemic is hard on all of us. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call a friend, try meditation or say a prayer. Get outside regularly for a walk or a jog.

If you really aren’t doing well, don’t hide. Pick up the phone and call the crisis line (613-722-6914), attend a meeting, find a therapist, talk to your health-care practitioners. It’s okay to need help, it’s okay to not be able to get through this alone.

And continue to be a good neighbour. Maybe you can help brighten someone’s day. It doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as a loving message with sidewalk chalk.

When I look around, I’m thankful to be going through this pandemic in this place with these people. I am not alone. You are not alone. We’re in this together. There are signs of encouragement in a dark time everywhere you look.

Dan Chook Reid lives in the Glebe with his wife Melody, their two young children and their friend Deirdre. He is chair of the Glebe Community Association Health, Housing and Social Services Committee and is starting a new faith community, Bytown Community Church.

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