While some of us must keep physically apart, I am struck by a great sense of community and caring demonstrated here. So many reaching out to offer help with child care and the needs of those whose livelihood is at risk. Others offer thanks and concern to all the helpers (to use Mr. Rogers’ term) who are putting themselves at risk to care for others.

This is not a new phenomenon.

It also happened in Tennessee earlier this week when tornados struck.

It happened after Katrina and Harvey when Cajun boatmen came to rescue people from rooftops.

It happened after Hurricane Irma when people drove from Texas to Tampa and stopped by my sister’s house to offer free help to remove downed tree limbs.

And it happened during the polar vortex last year here in Oak Park when houses of worship welcomed those homeless who slept at their churches to stay for the day through the week, and a caravan of volunteers showed up in the bitter cold to bring them to a new location each evening.

We are at our best as a community when we look beyond ourselves and realize we really do need and depend on each other to preserve life. It is not “rugged individualism” that has made us a great nation, a beacon for the world, but how we have worked together.

Our ancestors came from literally everywhere. They came together here, there and everywhere across our country.

In many cases they still have strong ties to family left behind. As a nation, we are uniquely situated to be a web of concern and compassion with the whole human community as we face the global challenges of COVID-19 and climate crisis.

The coming weeks will present grave challenges. As we keep our distance, let us continue to maintain our mutual concern and not fall victim to our greatest challenge: fear and loathing of “the other.” 

Together we can move on to a better future.

Teresa Powell

Oak Park

Join the discussion on social media!