The American people are the government. They elect it and fund it. That means we cannot simply look to state, federal and local governments as a solution to the coronavirus. We must also look directly at ourselves, our families, our friends, our colleagues, our churches, our neighborhoods, and our social circles as the solution to surviving the pandemic intact.
To help guide and inspire us, nothing seems more fitting than the observation written by The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1963 book “Strength to Love.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others,” King wrote.
Able-bodied neighbors will contact people in their communities who have lost their jobs, shuttered their businesses, have limited mobility, have infants, are in poor health or elderly, disabled, or otherwise challenged in ways that exacerbate the hardships of the pandemic. They will offer comfort and assistance, and ask what they can do while avoiding direct contact and maintaining a safe social distance. The strong will help the weak; the rich will help the poor.
We are seeing such action all over the country. Instead of witnessing widespread panic, looting, and marauding, we hear about people giving of themselves.
The San Diego Union-Tribune tells of a commercial landlord forgiving a restaurant operator’s rent through April. A rental complex owner offered tenants two weeks of free rent.
We suspect temporary rental abatement will be common among landlords who have the financial means. Leasing property is typically more than just a bottom-line endeavor. It is about providing homes for people who need them.
We know of dine-in restaurants, shut down by the orders of governors, distributing their food inventories to homeless shelters and families of limited financial means.
During this crisis, all will see how a great majority of business owners care deeply about employees and customers. They are in business to improve their communities, not the greed motive they are so often accused of.
People are leaving gift certificates and baskets full of food and household supplies on the doorsteps of neighbors. In the parking lot of a Colorado Springs Costco, a couple reached into the trunk of their car this week and tossed dozens of rolls of bath tissue to strangers walking by. They could have sold them, knowing shelves are cleared of bathroom supplies at stores throughout the country. Instead, they gave it all away.
The Denver Broncos on Wednesday gave a half-million dollars to the Colorado Covid Relief Fund. Professional athletes are donating tens of thousands of dollars to help stadium and arena employees who are out of work.
Gov. Jared Polis sees private philanthropy as a force more helpful than anything government can do.
“Nonprofit resources will always be more flexible in their use than public resources, state or federal, and (we need) to have those resources to meet that very real need and very real pain that people are feeling who have lost their jobs, who are trapped at home, who don’t know what to do for their kids,” Polis said Wednesday while announcing the establishment of the privately funded Covid Relief Fund.
In so many ways, the pandemic feels like the early scenes of an apocalypse thriller or the culmination of everything emergency preppers have warned of for years. But unlike TV and movie portrayals of a worldwide crisis, we aren’t seeing the worst in people. Yes, consumers are hoarding household goods. The hoarding begets hoarding. But we are also seeing a great amount of sharing, charity and selfless care.
How well we survive this crisis has everything to do with how well we treat each other throughout the ordeal. We think King would agree. The ultimate measure of a community or nation is not where it stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where it stands at times of challenge.