I had my first day off since the pandemic started. Our county is under a stay-at-home order to stop the spread of COVID-19, and face coverings are now required. Because my patients do not have masks, I went to Walmart to buy materials so my family can make face covers. I arrived expecting a ghost town. Instead, the parking lot looked like Superbowl weekend.
I donned my mask and gloves and headed into the store. I was horrified walking inside. The store was packed. Almost no one was wearing a face cover. No one was social distancing. Families and children were shopping together as though nothing was different. The atmosphere was oddly “normal. ” The scene was disturbing.
Every doctor, nurse, and healthcare worker I know has spent every waking minute worrying about ways to keep patients, staff, and their families safe. My children have not left the house in four weeks. After work, I undress in my garage. As a healthcare worker, my family must social distance from me. From the behavior I witness at Walmart, our efforts seem pointless.
Wearing a mask is not about protecting yourself. A face covering is now an act of kindness toward others.
Until widespread testing is available, the safest course of action is for every American to live as though we are all asymptomatic carriers. The sad truth is any one of us may be shedding the virus and putting others at risk.
I stopped in the aisle and took a deep breath behind my surgical mask. I thought to myself:
“Nothing is working. It is hopeless.”
Pulling myself together, I resumed my mission. I needed to find cotton material and hair ties to sew masks. These items are not typically on my shopping list. I wandered aimlessly through the packed aisles searching for the elusive craft section. I stare at various fabric options and realize I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. My mastery of surgically sewing skin does not translate into knitting cotton.
I notice three women nearby. All three are wearing masks. All three are evaluating various fabrics and materials. Eavesdropping was easy as they were practicing social distancing and standing six feet apart. They were debating which materials work best to make masks. I introduce myself and ask for help and guidance.
They teach me how to repurpose bedsheets into masks. They show me which type of hair ties will serve as ear straps and avoid ear pain. They even suggested which patterns would look the best and be fun to wear. These three women were on a mission to solve a problem.
I ask why they are sewing. One wants to protect her 10 family members. The other is making masks for her grandchildren. The other wants to donate masks to those in need. All three have their own masks but want to help others. None were sewing for themselves. They are using their talents, time and energy to serve the needs of others.
They are curious about my job. I explain our Obgyn practice’s immediate need to provide face coverings for our pregnant patients. Pregnant women must attend their prenatal appointments. Millions of pregnant women are worried and trying to understand what to do. They want to protect their babies and find out if they are at risk. They need to wear a face cover to protect themself and to prevent spreading the virus to their doctors.
These three women remind me human kindness knows no limits. Our world is dark and dreary but heroes are everywhere. We need to celebrate them. Acts of kindness will conquer the virus.
While some people ignore the face-covering guidelines, senior citizen knitting clubs such as Quilting Angels donated 300 face covers for pregnant women. The women’s group at White’s Chapel United Methodist Church added another 250. Other churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques are finding ways to help their communities.
Rizwan Sunderji, the president of Sleeptronic, repurposed their equipment to provide PPE to healthcare workers. College students such as Instagram influencer @stelladelaughter mobilized fashion and design students at the prestigious SCAD in Savannah, Georgia to sew face coverings and gather much-needed materials from industry leaders.
Kindness is more contagious than COVID-19
We may be stuck at home to stop the spread, but we can share our time, energy and resources to help others. For some, kindness may be sewing masks. My wife, my mother, her neighbor Arlene, and my best friend’s mother Ros, are knitting as fast as they can. The best of humanity is always around the corner.
All of us can find a way to help others. Pick up groceries for a neighbor. Check on your elderly friends. Children can Facetime their grandparents. Millennials can use their social media channels to spread positive stories of heroes helping humanity.
Sometimes small acts make all the difference. A high school friend recently sent me a personal Facebook message. She simply wanted to share with me something I told her in 1990 has stuck with her all these years and guided her path. A message from a friend is a powerful way to touch another life.
Each and every person has a talent. How will you use yours to make the world a better place?
Previously Published on Medium