The world is changing; every day the headlines bring more anxiety. Yet, across the globe, people are coming together. Not in person – in the time of COVID-19, being together is not possible – but virtually, through video, phone calls and social media. Somehow the enforced lack of physical contact is prompting people to get in touch and find ways to reach out and help each other, with an astonishing display of determination and creativity.
In Italy, there are opera singers entertaining neighbourhoods with songs every evening, and impromptu balcony aerobics classes, all to boost morale. On Facebook, groups have sprung up in which frazzled parents offer words of support and learning resources for others in lockdown with their families. Across the UK, children are posting drawings of rainbows in the windows of their houses to spread a little gleam of happiness and hope to others.
We hear of communities around the world getting together to send postcards to elderly neighbours, offering to drop off groceries, help with errands or simply a friendly phone-call. Teachers conduct free virtual lessons; actors read stories for toddlers; yoga teachers offer free video classes. Amid the chaos of panic buying, a Northern Ireland supermarket quickly announced early opening hours for elderly shoppers, leading many other supermarkets to follow suit. In Wuhan, China, isolated residents chanted their support for each other from their balconies, while in South Africa, a youth choir created a song to raise awareness about the virus. In America, a Broadway star is inviting students from now-cancelled high school musicals to send her recordings of their performances instead.
It’s almost as if, as our normality collapses, our sense of community is flowering from the rubble. We humans have never been so profoundly human or so determined to find new ways to connect. Trivial disputes no longer seem to matter; instead, family, love, humanity, health and happiness all seem of fundamental importance. Perspective, we are realising, is everything. We all now know that we’re in this together, and so individuals around the globe are doing their bit, however small, to spread kindness, solidarity and hope. As people stay apart, the world is coming together. We are, in our isolation, more and more connected.