Every Tuesday during the COVID-19 lockdown, residents and staff of Scarborough Retirement Residence gather outside to greet family and friends driving through in a show of thanks. Michael Swan

Taking heart in blessed acts of kindness

  • June 24, 2020

One snowy day last February, looking out the window, I saw our next-door neighbour, broom in hand, trotting briskly through our backyard.

“Clearing snow off the furnace vents,” he explained. “Done mine, thought I’d check yours.”

Later, out the front window, I saw the other next-door neighbour sweeping snow off our path.

“Just done mine, thought I might as well do yours.”

Next day, our neighbour from up the road phoned. “Going out to get filters for the water system. I’ll get yours too if you like. Then I’ll come round and install them.”

I thank God for neighbourly neighbours! And this was pre-pandemic times — before we got all those messages from the media about reaching out to us elderly. Now, people are doubly solicitous.

So many friends have offered to get groceries, collect prescriptions. A former neighbour from our old place in Brechin, Ont., called to say he’d be happy to pick up anything we wanted. Any time. Just say the word.

On the day the lockdown was proposed and people were told to stay home, the doorbell rang. I answered it just in time to see a neighbour hastening away down the path, leaving in his wake a tantalizing aroma.

It arose from a dish of steaming hot lasagna.

“Wife just made it. It’s good.

That I don’t eat meat is beside the point (hubby does.) My heart was touched by this little act — by all these little acts of caring and concern. I feel so blessed.

We are blessed! Well and truly so.

In the early stages of The Virus, we got an e-mail saying the deacon from our church was visiting homes in the neighbourhood. When he arrived, he and his wife stood beside their car at the end of our path.

Desmond and I stood outside our front door (at twice the mandated social distance) and joined in the prayers as we and our home were blessed and holy water from the Jordan was sprinkled in our direction.

Kindness and caring have been shown not only by friends and neighbours but by total strangers. Like the masked man in Walmart. Desmond and I were shopping, with separate carts. I’d gone through the checkout and was waiting for him, mulling over the fact that almost everyone seemed to be wearing a surgical mask. Everyone except me and Desmond. 

I wondered how it was that everybody seemed to have one, while I hadn’t been able to find one anywhere. A tall man — masked — had just come through the next checkout; impulsively I spoke to him.

“Excuse my asking, but where did you get your mask? They’re not available anywhere I’ve looked.” 

Above the mask, his eyes smiled. “My daughter,” he said. “Frontline worker. Got me a couple. You can have one. I’ll meet you in the parking lot when you come out.”

“I’m waiting for my husband. Might be quite a while still. So, never mind. But thanks anyway, I really appreciate the offer.”

The masked man shrugged, smiled and went on his way.

By the time Desmond checked out and we exited the store, a good bit of time had elapsed. As we approached our car the masked man appeared.

“Here you are,” he said. “I’ve been holding them by the strings, so’s not to contaminate them. Stay well! Stay safe!”

And off he went, barely pausing to hear my, “Thank you and God bless you!”

“God bless you, too,” he smiled and hopped into his car.

Not one, but two masks! On a cold, windy day he’d waited 15 minutes to help a stranger.

A week later we received in the mail two beautiful masks, handmade by my sister-in-law!

The good side of The Virus is that it’s brought out the good side of so many people (including from some we never suspected of having a good side).

Everybody showing concern for everybody else. Kids phoning twice as often, checking up on “elderly parents.” Neighbours constantly asking if we’re OK, if we need anything. One presenting us with a large bottle of hand sanitizer, because “I found a good deal.  Got tons of it.”

Staying home has given us plenty of “spare time.” Time to ponder. Time to think about what’s important in life. Time to think about how we spend our spare time.

And about how we can reach out to our neighbours — while keeping our social distance.

(Saldanha is a writer who lives in Ramara, Ont.)

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