FRONT PORCH: Gratitude for Big Things and Small Things

During a call with an acquaintance who lost her job and who has not been paid for two months, she gave a somewhat surprising answer when asked how she was coping with the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting strain on her.

“I’m doing great”, she noted with a great deal of enthusiasm. When asked why, her response was emphatic: “I’m alive!” She went on to describe many big and small things for which she was grateful.

A similar reply came from a friend who turned 75 this past Monday and expressed gratitude for many things. His wife ribbed him that he was now old and was required to stay inside. But his spirit was buoyant.

Crises reveal individual character and the character of a society. The civil behavior by some and the rude behavior by others at food stores, always an instructive venue for sociological research, reveals the characters of shoppers.

It also reveals a certain indiscipline in many of us who refuse to abide by rules and guidelines, such as physical distancing and wearing masks, intended to protect the health of others. Even in a monumental health crises the entrenched slackness of many remains mostly unabated.

And so does the hoarding by some who keep buying more and more even though their home pantries and general supplies may be stacked. One person noted that she knows someone who claims that she has now purchased several hundred rolls of toilet tissue.

In an essay entitled, The Coronation, Charles Eisenstein wrote:

“Take for example the issue of hoarding, which embodies the idea, ‘There won’t be enough for everyone, so I am going to make sure there is enough for me.’ Another response might be, ‘Some don’t have enough, so I will share what I have with them.’ Are we to be survivalists or helpers? What is life for?”

There are many acts of kindness and generosity in the midst of the current uncertainty and fear.

Many Bahamians are creating or forwarding encouraging notes, images and music. Many are donating food or gifting money to family, friends and strangers. Some young people are the designated shoppers for parents and relatives.

A dear friend described how she is still trying to celebrate Easter with her two children and husband. She and her daughter are going to paint Easter eggs together and she intends to cook a nice Easter meal.


In the United States some service workers are reporting an uptick in tips, especially by working class customers who are especially experiencing the hardships because of COVID-19.

Media reports from the U.S. note how working class African Americans are especially hard hit by the outbreak.

The three major factors which make them more vulnerable to the effects of the virus include, poverty and underlying health problems, which are related, and because many of them are on the frontline as service workers and EMT responders.

Here at home on the frontlines of the outbreak are medical professionals, service workers, public officers and members of the uniformed branches. A teenager in a youth development group told one of the adults that he was concerned about the health of his parents, both of whom are Defence Force Officers.

It is human to turn inward, to become somewhat selfish in a time of crisis. Pope Francis recently spoke about selfish moments during the outbreak, which has hit Italy especially hard.

The pope said he was struggling with “self-preoccupation”, especially as he is mostly spending time alone.

With his typical candor he reflected in an interview with the Catholic weekly the Tablet: “Of course I have my areas of selfishness. On Tuesdays, my confessor comes, and I take care of things there.”

His thoughts then turned outward as a way of breaking the temptation to selfishness and self-absorption:

“I’m thinking at this time of the saints who live next door. They are heroes – doctors, volunteers, religious sisters, priests, shop workers – all performing their duty so that society can continue functioning.

“How many doctors and nurses have died! How many religious sisters have died! All serving … If we become aware of this miracle of the next-door saints, if we can follow their tracks, the miracle will end well, for the good of all.”


The Tablet has reported that 50 priest have died thus far in Italy because of the novel Coronavirus. The courage, compassion and empathy of many on the frontlines of the outbreak is a rejoinder to our selfishness and indifference.

There are those, especially some of the more privileged in the Bahamas, who after the prime minister announced a series of restrictions in emergency orders, responded peevishly and petulantly that they were going to be inconvenienced. This in the face of many Bahamians who have little food to eat, including mothers with children.

As a rejoinder to this mindset, Eisenstein also notes in The Coronation, which is a somewhat long but worth read, about how the current crisis has stirred within many the desire for greater compassion and solidarity, a greater impulse for the common good.

He writes:

“On a larger scale, people are asking questions that have until now lurked on activist margins. What should we do about the homeless? What should we do about the people in prisons? In Third World slums? What should we do about the unemployed?

“What about all the hotel maids, the Uber drivers, the plumbers and janitors and bus drivers and cashiers who cannot work from home? And so now, finally, ideas like student debt relief and universal basic income are blossoming. ‘How do we protect those susceptible to Covid?’ invites us into “How do we care for vulnerable people in general?”

“That is the impulse that stirs in us, regardless of the superficialities of our opinions about Covid’s severity, origin, or best policy to address it. It is saying, let’s get serious about taking care of each other. Let’s remember how precious we all are and how precious life is. Let’s take inventory of our civilization, strip it down to its studs, and see if we can build one more beautiful …

“From all over the world we hear stories of solidarity and healing. One friend described sending $100 each to ten strangers who were in dire need. My son, who until a few days ago worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, said people were tipping at five times the normal rate – and these are working class people, many of them Hispanic truck drivers, who are economically insecure themselves.”

We might all take a personal moral inventory of our actions during this deadly outbreak and the resulting fear and anxiety. “How can I be more compassionate and generous including to those hardest hit financially who have lost their incomes and have no savings?”

The Government must now play a critical role in helping the vulnerable and those who will be unemployed for some time.

This will require a national moral inventory and in the language of Catholic Social Teaching, a committed option for the poor, who must be a major priority of any relief and recovery plan, especially in term of basic necessities such as food, medicine, rent and utilities.

What will a robust solidarity look like? It must include each of us and indeed as many of us as possible looking beyond the navel-gazing conceit and lethargy of our privileges and pampered needs and realise that our neighbours extend well beyond those next door who live in our gated-communities and neighbourhoods.

Happy Easter!


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