By Gaby Rattner, Barbara's House Executive Director
As with many people, my experience of this virus is colored by numbers: How many new cases? How many deaths? How many hotspots? And those other numbers: How many more payrolls can I cover? Which agency bills should I pay first and which can I defer without penalty?
And like nearly everyone, my life has been dramatically circumscribed, my ability to be with others and enjoy usual pastimes completely eradicated.
But this difficult time has also brought some extraordinary moments, and even aromas, that I will remember always. While many have been separated by this scourge, so too it has brought together so many amazing people performing so many tremendous acts of kindness.
First and most powerful is the self-made army of volunteers who came to Barbara's House beginning in early March toting empty grocery bags, staying to pack them with food donations (including some of their own), and then helping to distribute them to our needy clients and seniors. Stalwart supporters such as Alan Barry, Janeene (our program officer from Fairfield County Community Foundation), Lou, Rev. Ted and so many others reaching out to ask what we need and how they can help. And colleagues from all over town sharing moral support, conversation, and virtual hugs.
The wonderful people at the Greenwich public library who responded to an inquiry by issuing a library card, immediately and digitally, to one of our senior citizens who has difficulty seeing, so that she could have access to audio books during this lonely time.
A local caterer answering the call for seder plates for two elderly couples in need by providing complete Passover dinners instead. My dear friend Eileen from Temple Sholom procuring matzah and sparkling cider to complete the meal. And Danielle Blaine from Food Rescue bringing chocolate Easter eggs and other holiday goodies for all our CCI kids unable to enjoy our canceled Easter egg hunt.
I smile as I recall the smell of banana bread baking in the Barbara's House kitchen, thanks to a large delivery of the fruit and a staff member’s spur of the moment decision to transform them into a sweet surprise for sixty people.
My son’s birthday celebration, spent not at the DMV as he had hoped, but instead in a “pretend” humanities seminar secretly organized by his fellow classmates, friends and teachers, so that he could blow out a real candle and hear happy birthday sung to him in a virtual surprise party.
My parents’ neighbors checking in on them by phone and email and bringing them masks. A daily walk with my husband (weather permitting) to clear our heads, our lungs, and have a “date hour.”
And the enduring words of thanks from some of our clients, for whom we continue to work each day
The food delivery is very helpful. My mom can’t really leave the house because she’s sick.
It helps because then my mom doesn’t have to go to the store as often. And it’s easier to find stuff to eat like today I ate the ramen noodles that were in there.
My husband and I work together and we have essentially lost our business. We are completely shut down and have no source of income coming in at all. We have applied for aid which has been hard to get through and have not heard anything yet from either of them. We are a family of 5 and the food delivery helps us greatly with 3 kids home hungry! Our bills are mounting for our mortgage and insurance and it all seems like one big dark tunnel until this is all over. I hope it is ok that I asked for help, we would never have asked if we were not in this situation. But truly it has been wonderful.
Abigail Adams said: “…It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”
Thank you to all the heroes who are helping to make the current difficult world a little bit of a better place.
This post first appeared in the Greenwich Sentinel.