The Worst of Times, the Best of People

Sweet Caroline

By D. Allan Kerr

Just before shutting down due to this coronavirus crisis, Lil’s Café in the Foreside area of Kittery, Maine, put out dozens of free crullers on their outdoor picnic tables for customers.

Loco Coco Tacos, before they too had to shut down, offered to provide free kid’s lunches to local students enduring food insecurity while school facilities are closed. And when the restaurant did shut down, staffers donated their inventory to Seacoast non-profits Cross Roads and Lydia’s House of Hope.

Kittery’s school nutrition program now provides free breakfast and lunch to local families every weekday at three locations in town.

School buses show up at the Kittery Community Center, Woodland Commons, and the open grass area at Howard Street from 11 a.m. to noon, and families can pick up their meals without even getting out of their vehicle.

On a recent Friday evening, Dr. Kati Gay of Life Starts Here Chiropractic opened a $200 tab for stressed-out local families to pick up take-out pizzas from When Pigs Fly Pizzeria.

First Christian Church at Kittery Point volunteered to take on the grocery shopping for local residents more than 70 years old who want to avoid this deadly virus, and will deliver to the residents’ front door.

A friend of mine – a former town councilor who’s no spring chicken himself – offered on Facebook to make a dump run to Kittery’s waste facility for those unable or reluctant to do so themselves.

I could cite other examples, both big and small, but you get the point.

And this is just one small town in the southern tip of Maine where I happen to live. No doubt there are countless other selfless and considerate acts taking place all across the country.

See, the thing about disasters – as desolate as times may seem – is they also showcase the true character of our neighbors, as well as our leaders.

Sometimes that’s not a good thing, but for the most part it’s pretty damn glorious. There’s a sometimes deep-seeded ingredient within our genetic makeup that springs our best qualities to life when needed the most.

Fortunately, for every conniving U.S. senator feverishly dumping personal stocks while assuring voters all is well, there are a couple million good folks doing their best Mother Teresa.

We witness such acts in our communities firsthand and, thanks to the magic of modern media, we can also be inspired by our more high-profile fellow citizens.

Cuomo BrothersI can’t help but notice outlets from MSNBC to Fox News have taken to airing the daily briefings of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose blunt accountability and craggy but paternal reassurances help fill the nation’s leadership vacuum during this crisis.

And his on-air clashes with kid brother CNN anchor Chris Cuomo have provided some much-needed levity.

When people are living in fear, isolation and frustration, even small surprises can be uplifting – we don’t always need an epic gesture.

Rita Wilson RapsActress Rita Wilson, best-known as Tom Hanks’ wife, shared a brilliant video recently of herself rapping to Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” while quarantining during her own coronavirus recovery.

A grizzled 79-year-old Neil Diamond became an unexpected viral hit by re-working his classic Fenway anthem “Sweet Caroline” with timely new lyrics – “Hands/washing hands/Reaching out/Don’t touch me/I won’t touch you!”

As irreverent “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds – a favorite in our household – deadpanned in a recent public service announcement:

“In times of crisis, I think we all know that it’s the celebrities we count on most. They’re the ones who are going to get us through this. Right after health care workers, of course; first responders, people who work in essential services, ping pong players, mannequins…”

Reynolds and actress wife Blake Lively donated $1 million to food banks in both America and Canada to help people get thru these times, and other famous folks have been generous as well.

But he’s right – medical professionals and volunteers on the front lines of this crisis represent our brightest lights right now, just as first responders did during the 9/11 attacks almost 20 years ago.

And as inspiring as they may be, not all their stories with happy endings.

I read how 48-year-old nursing supervisor Kious Kelly died of coronavirus after helping treat COVID-19 patients at New York City’s Mount Sinai West hospital.

The death of Kelly, who had asthma, may have resulted from a lack of appropriate gear, according to colleagues.

“He used to do whatever he needed to do to decongest the emergency department or help the nurses out so patients wouldn’t sit in the hallway exposing others,” a co-worker said. “He paid the ultimate price for working too hard and caring too much.”

In the Boston area alone, more than 160 hospital workers have been diagnosed with this virus.

(UPDATE: Four of Boston’s largest hospitals reported 345 employees tested positive for the coronavirus as of March 30.)

In New York City, some 350 employees of the police department tested positive. Dez-Ann Romain, a beloved 36-year-old New York City public high school principal, died from the coronavirus.

Virus Medical WorkersOn March 1, there were about 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and one death.

As of this writing, just four weeks later, there are more than 124,000 reported cases and 2,100 deaths in this country alone. That’s pretty astounding.

(UPDATE: As of March 31 at 10:30 a.m., the Johns Hopkins global COVID-19 tracker put the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. at 174,467, with 3,416 deaths and 6,000 people recovered.)

I don’t think the zombie apocalypse is upon us. We’re going to pull together and get thru this, as we always have.

But we need to pay attention to the people on the front lines, the professionals who study these issues and know what they’re talking about.

And we need to continue to put forward our better selves.

D. Allan Kerr has benefited from social assistance in the past.

(March 31, 2020)

Follow D. Allan Kerr on Twitter @Sloth_Blog and on Facebook

He can also be found on


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