#Pocalypso | A Pandemic of Kindness

2020-06-18 – It’s a common observation that disasters can bring out the best in people. That, of course, is never the whole story. While it brings out the best in most people, it brings out the worst in others. It’s easy to tell which is which.

Today, I’m not going to dwell on the baddies. Today, I want to talk about the good ones. They are my neighbors.

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for 25 years. We are quite diverse: black, white, and Hispanic; Christian, Muslim, and Jew. We are a rare neighborhood in Chicago, apparently. Everyone goes about their business and leaves everyone alone. Too alone, maybe. The last observation might just be me. We don’t have a lot of friends and the ones we have are outside the neighborhood.

But this all seems to be changing. The pandemic seems to have made people friendlier (including me?). People stop to chit-chat (at a safe distance, of course). A couple of kids from down the street have adopted us as their grandparents. (Really, they’ve adopted our dog. We’re just part of the package. But whatever. It’s nice. And we’ve gotten to know their mom.) And they help us tend our garden and we helped them plant their own garden. This, of course, brings out other neighbors. It’s a block party with masks.

We live across the street from a school. My son went there only two years and we sent him elsewhere because the environment in the school was not positive. Things have changed in the intervening years.

Yesterday, I was working at my desk in the basement. I have a class block window with a little panel that opens. The weather is nice and I have it opened. Suddenly, I hear music. This happens sometimes. Usually, the music is coming from a car passing by. But this music didn’t go away. And it was “Pomp and Circumstance.” Who listens to “Pomp and Circumstance”? So I was curious and went outside to see what was going on.

It was the school’s eighth grade graduation!

They had put up a tent and a lot of signs celebrating the graduates. One-by-one a car would pull up to the tent and a kid would get out, collect their diploma and a gift bag, and get their picture taken—all to the cheers of teachers in masks. And the cops who blocked the street gave each kid a blast of their siren. (A weird thing, these days, but fun.) I recognized the assistant principal and gave him a thumbs up. He gave me a thumbs up back. And I took some pictures. Though, you really couldn’t get a good picture. Everything was six feet apart!

As you can imaging, it took several hours to get through all the graduates. I would have died in a stuffy auditorium. But under the circumstances, it was a joy. Not just for the kids and their families, but for the entire neighborhood.

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