KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS: How a community rallied around 2 Meridian hospitals

Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Anna Armstrong, granddaughter of Dr. John Anderson, President and CEO at Anderson Regional Health Systems, waves to staff at the hospital in support of them helping patients during the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday. 

In an earlier time, this week you may have attended a Holy Thursday service, gathered for a Passover Seder, visited the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday or attended a Passion play.

You may have helped your mother polish the good silver and ironed white linen napkins and a tablecloth in anticipation of family visiting Sunday for an Easter dinner.

You may have gone to the mall to visit the Easter bunny or scurried around a park during a community egg hunt.

You may have shopped at the grocery store for a leg of lamb, a ham, a turkey, jelly beans, chocolate rabbits, plastic grass and a butter lamb.

You may have stopped off at the retail stores to find a new pair of shoes, a fancy hat, a dress, a suit, a shirt, a tie … favoring pastels of purple, yellow and pink.

You may have spent Easter morning at a sunrise service, offering praise in a church, hunting for eggs around the house, unwrapping an Easter basket and munching on hot cross buns and other pastries.

You may have spent the afternoon dining at a favorite restaurant, greeting company at your door and gathering around the table with family and friends for an elaborate, multi-course meal.

You may have argued over politics or snuck away to a television set to follow the final round of the Masters.

Those are all fine traditions and memories, but this year we place most of them on hold.

We have experienced deep losses in this Easter season that’s fractured by COVID-19 – the death or illness of family or friends, our jobs, our retirement funds, our human connections … We have experienced fear for our healthcare workers as they work the front lines of this illness, fear for our safety and fear for the uncertainty of the individual losses that might come next.

But if we know anything about the Easter season, we know it is a season of faith, hope and promise. And while those other traditions dwell in memories this year, we have witnessed many acts of kindness, compassion and resiliency.

We have seen faith communities use social media, livestreaming, drive-in services and telephones to remain connected and allow their congregations to view and participate in services remotely and communicate with clergy.

We have seen the many food assistance programs established or expanded to serve school children and people in rural areas.

We have seen teachers organize “caravans of love” to support their students.

We have seen our colleges and schools in almost a heartbeat transition to distance learning programs.

We have seen The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience livestream weekly concerts to lift our spirits.

We have seen people line up to donate blood.

We have seen volunteers sew face masks to donate to the hospitals and others.

We have seen Lauren Denham and her neighbors helping their children write inspiring messages with sidewalk chalk for passers-by.

We have seen Jennifer LaBoe organize a night of prayer in front of Anderson Regional Medical Center and Rush Foundation Hospital, and families rally in their cars to follow her lead.

We have seen retirement communities such as Aldersgate create programs to maintain some joy and allow residents to connect with their families remotely.

We have seen the EMBDC look for ways to help local businesses survive.

We have seen businesses such as Lake Shore Studios, Glass Incorporated, A&A Glass and La-Z-Boy begin making face guards, hoods and masks to protect healthcare workers.

We have seen Albree Florey, her own World of Flowers and Gifts business hurt by the crisis, provide red ribbons to show support for healthcare workers.

We have seen Americorps member Jennifer Hearn bring baskets of joy around her community of Marion.

We have heard reporter Erin Kelly offer to run errands for former sources who are now homebound.

We have seen photographer Paula Merritt take up a collection so she could purchase supplies for nursing home residents.

We have seen grocery clerks try to keep pace as shelves are emptied.

We have seen neighbors running and biking through neighborhoods and taking the time to stop and talk – from a safe distance.

We know there have been hundreds of other acts of kindness unseen and unheralded.

So we could lament our traditions that we set aside this year or we could find hope in our resilience and spirit of community.

We wish you peace this Easter.

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