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Amid virus gloom, glimpses of human decency and good works

April 21, 2020 Sally Stapleton Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — The idea formed on a day when all the news headlines were dire. The coronavirus was surging worldwide; Nashville had lost residents in a devastating tornado and children had had their lives upended as they separated from beloved classmates to shelter at home.

But only bad news is never the whole story. Days later, The Associated Press started its daily series “One Good Thing” to reflect people’s unheralded sacrifices to benefit others.

Since March 17, when a Norwegian mom tried to soften the blow of birthdays under quarantine for her two teens by asking via social media that people reach out to them, there have been 35 stories about the ways that everyday people have tried to make a positive difference in the lives of others during the COVID-19 pandemic. The gestures have been grand and small, some as simple as chalk-written messages on a sidewalk thanking healthcare workers at a New Orleans hospital for their efforts.

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Firefighter Elielson Silva played his trumpet from the top of a ladder for residents isolated at home in Rio de Janeiro. “Everyone is suffering the pandemic and I’m trying to the boost the morale of Rio’s population, so all this difficulty is lessened in these times we’re going through,” said Silva. Photo: Leo Correa/AP

Music has been a central theme. The series has included stories about a Rio firefighter who shared his love of music from a hydraulic ladder 150 feet high as he played the trumpet for cooped-up apartment dwellers; a virtual rendition of “Bolero” from the National Orchestra of France, for which each musician played alone at home; and Sunday performances from the Corona Community Choir, which has members from around the world.

If music soothes the soul, food feeds it. There have been six stories that tell of benefactors feeding health care workers, the poor, and elderly shut-ins. There was even a story about volunteers feeding hungry animals at a revered Hindu temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.

There have been meals from Brooklyn caterer Israel Frischman for Holocaust survivors who are shut in. The day after the story ran, donations swelled and now Frischman has more financial backing for meals. And there has been simpler fare from the “Solidarity Menu” started by Emiliano Moscoso, who employed his Colombia hamburger chain to feed poor neighborhoods in Bogota.

Staff from the Pashupatinath Development Trust fed pigeons at Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. Guards, staff and volunteers are making sure animals and birds on the temple grounds don’t starve during the country’s lockdown. Photo: Niranjan Shrestha/AP

The delivery of lifesaving supplies has been a storyline as well, from the professional cyclist in Italy who has gone from racing against competitors to racing medicine to those in need, to Yale student Liam Elkind’s delivery service. Elkind reports that his “Invisible Hands” effort has ballooned in the past month. “We’re making over 1,000 deliveries a week now, and over 10,000 volunteers have joined our group. I feel like I haven’t slept in decades, but, honestly, I’ve never felt more energized,” he said.

Heroes have emerged in children, from Nova Knight, a 5-year-old firecracker in Alaska who implored her cohorts to wash their hands and postpone playdates, to 16-year-old TJ Kim, who can’t drive, but can fly. He uses those skills to deliver much-needed medical supplies across rural Virginia.

The stories have circled the world, from Colombia and Nepal to Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, Israel, Indonesia and South Korea, where Kim Byung-rok, a cobbler, donated land to help raise money for the fight against the virus.

Professional cyclist Davide Martinelli delivered medicine to Cristina, an elderly resident who lives in Lodetto, Italy. Photo: Luca Bruno/AP

In a month of stories about the goodness of others, it’s no surprise when AP journalists revisited previous subjects of coverage, they found the obvious: the givers’ giving expanded.

Associated Press writers Leanne Italie and Luis Andres Henao contributed to this report.

Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.


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