Being nicknamed “the Friendly City,” one would think that in a pandemic people might become decidedly less friendly, but thankfully this does not appear to be true. As a real estate team, we have connections throughout the Shenandoah Valley, and we have had the privilege of hearing many stories of neighbors caring for each other. We would like to share a few with you in hopes that you will be encouraged as we have been.
In our community, one of the first major hints of the significant impact of COVID-19 occurred on March 13th when schools were closed so that teachers could begin planning for possible distance learning scenarios. At that time, no one knew that schools would not open again for the rest of the academic year, yet already people in the community were starting to care. At one local school, a parent brought smoothies for all 75 teachers as they spent the day planning for the future. When colleges closed their doors, one EMU professor was assisted remotely by a neighbor who spent tireless hours helping to set up online classes.
Within days we went from being slightly more vigilant about handwashing to keeping a distance of at least 6 feet from all but members of our immediate household. Like our children, most of us had very little transition from regular interactions with coworkers, church goers, and community members to absolute isolation. For a portion of our community, folks in essential jobs, life became a risky endeavor with many complications. Amidst all of this upheaval, folks still found safe ways to connect and care. One local photographer took pictures of families as they posed on their front steps. Children created artwork with sidewalk chalk to encourage neighbors. In stores people waited patiently in long lines and smiled at strangers while maintaining an appropriate distance. In one store a man asked a cashier where he could find hand sanitizer and the clerk handed him the sanitizer she had in her purse since it was the only bottle left in the store.
On a larger scale, neighborhoods and organizations created new ways to care for their members. Bear hunts for families with small children were staged; teddy bears were placed in windows for children to find during a walk. Teachers drove individually through neighborhoods to honk at students and wave, letting them know that their teachers still care. Churches organized prayer times to support local medical professionals. People stood at a distance and held signs to encourage folks who serve at the hospital. And neighbors checked in with individuals living alone to make sure they had a support system in place.
We have also heard from many local, essential businesses and organizations who are open and trying to serve our community. People are leaving large tips when getting curbside pickup. One local business ordered hundreds of gift cards from local restaurants to help bolster the community while thanking their employees at the same time. Members of HOA boards reached out to their community members to make sure everyone had what they need. People are connecting and caring at all levels.
We are proud and thankful to be part of the friendly community of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. We each have our part to play in contributing to the well-being of all. This virus has exposed the frailty of the human body AND the strength of the human spirit. A local middle school principal recently said “We are in a season of making meaning. Our world views are being shaped and formed during this time with COVID-19. Will our narrative be one of hatred and blame or of unity and strength?” That is the narrative being determined right now in our community. As a team, we see hope in the story being written.
Let’s stay the course.