Right now, you might be finding it harder than usual to feel hopeful. With social distancing measures still in place, many of us are feeling lonely, bored, and a little less than cheery — but all hope isn’t dead. Check out these five joyful ways people are paying it forward during the pandemic.
Delivering mail and smiles.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, mail carrier Traci Gerber Lewis chuckled viewing photos online of a postal worker in England who was cheering up folks during the COVID-19 quarantine by delivering mail in costume.
Wanting to bring the same vibrant joy to her customers, Traci began whipping up creative outfits to wear as she delivered mail. She appeared on doorsteps as Princess Leia, a pirate, a unicorn, even a rainbow! But her costumes weren’t just for laughs-they all had an inspirational quote pinned to them. “Folks told me it was one of the highlights of their day, like looking forward to the ice cream truck when they were kids!” Traci beams.
“I just wanted to spread the message: Stay positive. Hope is never lost.”
Helping, one dollar at a time.
When they had to abruptly close their Tybee Island, Georgia, bar, The Sand Bar, in March due to the COVID-19 crisis, the hardest part for owners Jennifer Knox and her mom, Pam Hassler, was having to lay off their staff. How will they pay their bills? they worried.
Then Jennifer looked up and saw the answer was all around them. Visitors to The Sand Bar had a tradition of writing messages on dollar bills that were then stapled to the walls and ceiling.
Inspired, Jennifer and a few friends spent eight days painstakingly taking down every dollar bill, totaling $3,700 — and divvied up the cash among their six employees. But once word spread, donations poured in, allowing Jennifer and Pam to help other service workers on Tybee Island too.
To date, they’ve doled out more than $8,000 to struggling families. “Our staff is like family,” says Jennifer. “And family helps each other!”
Filling bellies and lifting spirits.
Robert Pries couldn’t help worrying about the kids who relied on the meals he fed them each day at his You Are My Sunshine day-care center in Allouez, Wisconsin, when he had to close in mid- March. So he decided to keep feeding them and posted on social media that he’d bring meals to any families or neighbors in need.
Together, Robert and his eight-year-old daughter, Cecelia, who eagerly signed on to help, began filling paper bags with sandwiches and healthy snacks, then delivered them all around town to hungry families-more than 300 in all.
“We need to have compassion,” he told Cecelia. “Not everybody has what we have. If you see a need and you have the means, it’s the right thing to do to help others.”
Making masks to pay it forward.
Kristy Carnaghi was deeply grateful to the NICU nurses who cared for her son when he was born six weeks premature. So when she read during the COVID-19 crisis that there was a critical shortage of sterile masks, and those same nurses needed help, the Woodstock, Georgia, single mom got out her sewing machine.
Kristy couldn’t make medical-grade masks, but she could help the ones they had last longer by using several layers of cheery fabric and elastic to create medical mask coverings. The outer shields could be washed and reused, and their festive designs also helped the NICU seem less scary to worried parents.
With her now five-year-old son, Christian, helping, Kristy made nearly 150 masks and counting. Having him by her side made the project all the more special. She says, “It felt good to do our part.”
Bringing puppy love to the elderly.
Residents at the Cedar Pointe Health and Wellness Suites, a long-term care facility in Cedar Park, Texas, had come to rely on visits from Courtney Leigh’s Great Dane, Tonka. So when the facility went into lockdown, she couldn’t bear to think of the patients alone and lonely.
So Courtney began walking Tonka around the outside of the building, stopping at each window where patients put their hands against the glass and he presses his paw to bond with them, eliciting smiles.
“Tonka has an important job to do and nothing is going to stop him,” Courtney says. “Love always finds a way.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.