The faces and stories of overburdened healthcare workers and hospitals being pushed to the limit to treat COVID-19 patients will forever remain etched in our minds. While it is easy to see the effect a pandemic takes on healthcare systems, COVID-10 takes a less evident, yet significant, toll on the emotional and mental health of communities. Communities are hurting as connectivity and human interaction have plummeted, and community services and life events have been shut down. I know for me, as a tennis player, losing my tennis season this spring wasn’t easy, and I know my teammates and everyone else who has lost something is hurting.
We can feel our community hurting.
The crucial part of that sentence above, however, is the "we." Rochester is a resilient community. We realize that we are not alone. We are fortunate to have brilliant, caring, compassionate,and kind people throughout our community who are launching inspiring initiatives meant to build and support each other through these tough times. Mobilizing and incentivizing the community to promote wellness and support is an essential part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, otherwise, we can become overwhelmed.
Within neighborhoods, RNeighbors has taken initiative by offering mini-grants to spur local events that help foster connectivity and unity, and simply provide something fun to do (while social distancing, of course). Beyond local organizations making a difference, an often overlooked group that is making a splash is my peers, the youth of a community. With a massive potential to create the most innovative and powerfully unifying community movements, Rochester's youth are a vast group in a community that can do anything from simply helping out a neighbor to coordinating beneficial community movements. All around me I am inspired by wonderful initiatives to bring wellness in our community. Teens are offering their services to babysit for healthcare workers, shop for seniors, facilitate access to telehealth for seniors, provide tutoring for struggling peers during distance learning, make masks, and much more.
To me, it demonstrates something powerful going on behind the scenes that needs to be realized by communities around the world fighting the same common enemy in COVID-19.
Communities, and our youth especially, have a massive role to play in the battle against COVID-19. Academic papers and news headlines everywhere have unanimously agreed that communities have an important role to play in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by trying to flatten the curve through social distancing and isolation. While this certainly is a necessary course of action to relieve pressures on health systems, to think that this is the only power of the community is extremely reductive and short-sighted. The collective potential of a community and the emotional, mental, and holistic wellness that it can bring to society, healthcare systems, and the community itself is unbounded, and clearly observed in Rochester.
I am truly inspired by Rochester's compassion, and I hope you are too. Even the smallest ounce of compassion is much needed in these tough and unprecedented times. As the Beatles would say, we all get by with a little help from our friends.