Did Anything Good Come Out of the Year of the Pandemic?

by Shreya Birudavolu ’24

Source: Bloomberg Philanthropies

Published May 10th, 2021

When news of COVID-19 first hit, it came as a shock. It changed our day-to-day lives, and led to an unpredictable, unprecedented quarantine within our homes. It affected people everywhere – across towns, states, countries, and continents – leaving no area untouched. However, positivity still found its place among the many challenges in our lives. 

Since the outbreak, many communities have implemented lengthy quarantine restrictions. Yet, despite the isolating nature of today’s norms, many communities have never been closer. 

Around the world, support group volunteers have participated in different tasks, such as shopping and picking up groceries, to help the elderly and vulnerable. 

In the UK, 750,000 people answered the government’s plea for 250,000 National Health Service volunteers. And residents in the UAE organized a buddy system, using the hashtag #InThisTogetherUAE, with volunteers offering practical support as well as psychological help, legal advice, and career workshops.

Concerts and singalongs taking place across neighborhood balconies are also heartwarming acts of community solidarity. Neighbors, who were once complete strangers, are now voluntary participants in community wide performances with one message in mind: you are not alone. 

Celebrating the courage and dedication of the world’s medical staff and essential workers, who willingly risk their lives to protect us, has been another unifying factor of the pandemic. 

A rather unusual example of this was an audience of 2,292 house plants at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona where musicians performed for their leafy listeners before donating them to healthcare workers. 

In addition to music, other art forms have contributed to showing gratitude and unity. Several beautiful murals and pieces of street art, depicting empowering messages and portraits of doctors and nurses helping patients, have been appearing across the country.

The pandemic has also had a positive impact on the environment by giving the planet time to heal. Satellite data revealed that nitrogen dioxide levels had fallen by as much as 70% across eastern China, with some locations even experiencing drops of up to 93%.

Other countries, who imposed their own versions of lockdown, also noticed the environment responding to low human-activity. Blue skies replaced the smog in New Delhi. The Himalayan mountains were visible to parts of northern India for the first time in 30 years. And city skylines were clearing in Jakarta, Los Angeles, Paris and beyond. Although the polluted conditions may return once lockdown is over, this slight improvement has given us hope and should inspire us to do better in the future. 

On a more personal level, the pandemic has allowed people to focus on themselves. They could improve their skills, develop interests, and pick up new hobbies. Freshman Ela Bircan noted that “[she] learned how to play the piano, starting baking more often, and found time to improve [her] drawing skills.” Time in quarantine also gave people a chance to spend more time with their families. On a typical, “pre-COVID” weekday, everyone would be busy juggling their separate schedules and rushing to get to school or work. However, now that everyone is based at home, they have the opportunity to enjoy genuine moments with family members. “Having to stay home with my family allowed me to see my sister, who was born last year, grow up to become a toddler.” says Bircan. “If I had gone to school in person, I could’ve missed her significant milestones.”

Montgomery has also proved to be resilient as students and staff members continue to learn, connect, and do what they love. With a unique, but strong sense of community within the classroom, Monty has managed to meet the challenges. “I realized that no matter where my students are, we can create a cohesive classroom community,” says Ms. Meeker, an English teacher. “Despite the barriers of screens and masks, my students come in every day and we laugh, talk, and learn. The pandemic has reminded me how much I love teaching and that we can succeed no matter what obstacles are thrown our way.” 

The pandemic was full of many ups and downs, but our response to these various challenges is a testament to our resilience and ability to find light in the darkness.  

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