“It’s chaos. Be kind.” –Patton Oswalt, 2017.
In the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown, we all struggled to adapt to new ways of living: social distance, Zoom meetings, virtual schooling, and so on. People flooded the internet with their music, their crafts, and their good wishes. As we enter our seventh week in self-isolation, however, the City of Wyoming is making a concerted effort to bring joy, comfort, and encouragement to its residents from its residents. The project is called the Wyoming Kindness Connection.
“One of the challenges we all are facing is how to find moments of joy within these stressful days,” says the Kindness Connection web page. “It is our hope that the programs below will help you feel less isolated, even while we continue social distancing.”
Here, residents can sign up to Offer Kindness (volunteering), Partake In Kindness (participating in a group or activity), and Request Kindness (speaking to a pastoral care or volunteer social worker).
“We often operate like ducks, paddling away but trying to seem calm on the surface,” says City Council Member Sarah Stankorb Taylor, describing the reasons for the formation of the Kindness Connection. “We can’t make it through the next phase of this acting like ducks. We need to be more like geese, willing to move to the front and lead as we are able, and equally willing to fall back and rest as we need.”
To that end, the Kindness Connection addresses two major challenges facing people in the age of COVID. One is mood: “The programs are meant to…build little networks to give people some sort of emotional support,” says Stankorb Taylor. “Sometimes, just having something to look forward to is a big lift in the day. On the other side though, we are going to see some major mental health ramifications here.”
The people organizing the Kindness Connection span the gamut of community leaders, from City officials to educators to medical professionals to faith leaders. Each stresses the importance of kindness in the world, even in small doses. “The power of kindness is amazing,” says David Burstein, a Wyoming resident and rabbi educator at Congregation Beth Adam in Loveland. “Even a small act can change the world. We want to empower people to make a difference.”
Wyoming High School teacher Lisa Nocks agrees. “The Kindness Connection offers space for us to feel like we are doing something, taking some sort of action to hold the scary things at bay,” she says. “At the same time it offers space to say we could use some help.”
By joining the Kindness Connection, members can sign up for storytelling circles or interest groups. They can volunteer to lead groups, be a point of contact in the neighborhood, commit random acts of kindness, or offer their professional services. Or they can ask for confidential help from faith leaders and volunteer social workers.
Says Lisa Nocks, “We are a very giving community, which is a wonderful thing, but this also makes it ok to receive that kindness. “
Sarah Stankorb Taylor puts it a little differently: “Be a goose. Honk for help.”