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Christopher Coombes. Photo: Supplied

Positive community initiatives responding to the pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic has generated significant fear and anxiety in our communities, there are positive ways to respond to the crisis in order to remain connected to those around us and care for those who are vulnerable. Indooroopilly Uniting Church member Christopher Coombes writes about an initiative his household is doing to help their neighbourhood.

Lately, I’ve been compulsively consuming graphs of infections, images of people hoarding toilet paper, and apocalyptic memes about the end of the world.

“To stay safe”, a voice in my head says, “I should know the infection and death rates of China, the US, Italy, Spain and Australia”. Feelings of judgement, fear and apathy have taken root. In the current climate, are we allowed to feel anything else?

During a conversation with my sister-in-law last week, my state of apathy was interrupted by feelings of hope. My sister-in-law recounted how she had planted a poster in the shared hallway to her London apartment. The flyer offered connection and support with shopping to her self-isolating or unwell neighbours. The feelings of joy and hope I experienced from this conversation reminded me of value of sharing good news amidst the chaos.

My housemates agreed to follow my sister-in-law’s example. We co-authored a flyer and dropped them into the letterboxes on our street. My housemates have agreed to deliver groceries only while we are asymptomatic, we will use gloves, and wipe down their groceries before doing the “knock and run”. Caring, we are learning, looks different in a COVID-era. Being hygienic and physically distant is a generous act to the collective.

We have since discovered other examples of creative kindness. Children are beautifying their neighbourhoods by chalking flowers onto the pavement. Organisations like Queensland Community Alliance—of which the Uniting Church is a member—have mobilised and won support for an 80 per cent wage subsidy to support the un(der)employed. People have set up WhatsApp groups for their street, which provides an avenue for connection, safety and assistance.

Though we have not yet received a request for support from our neighbours, appreciative people have replied with kind messages and offers to also help out. My sister-in-law’s infectious kindness has reminded me that there are always opportunities to weave a stronger social fabric, even while isolated. We need not wait until COVID passes to love our neighbour.

Christopher Coombes

Christopher Coombes is a member of Indooroopilly Uniting Church. Chris works alongside people with disability in justice settings and, in his spare time, is a leader in the Queensland Community Alliance.

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