ATLANTA — Neighbors have shared messages of togetherness etched on sidewalks in chalk. Performers have shared their music. Restaurants have shared their food, handing out free meals and giving the homeless a place to dine together, just as long as they stayed six feet apart.
With the possible exception of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and their aftermath, most Americans have never lived through a moment like this one, with its combination of pervasive health risks, sweeping economic pain and utter uncertainty about the future. The rhythms of everyday life have been obliterated, leaving people stuck in their homes, many of them alone.
There is anxiety. There is loneliness. But there is hope, too.
Things that before the virus’s spread might have gotten a passing “like” on Facebook, or maybe even seemed a bit saccharine, have now taken on added meaning and emotional heft. Many people are searching for evidence that a sense of human connection can transcend physical distance. Or they’re just looking for a distraction. And it looks like they are finding it.
Sending a message …
In Atlanta, right at 8 p.m., a mass of people emerged outside in the Midtown section of the city several evenings this week and burst into applause, cheering the efforts of the doctors, nurses and hospital workers toiling for long hours in dangerous conditions at nearby hospitals.
In Southern California, a sports columnist for The Los Angeles Times, Bill Plaschke, called up Vin Scully, the retired longtime Dodgers announcer and a towering figure there, in a hunt for reassurance. “It’s the life of the world,” Mr. Scully told him, “the ups and downs. This is a down. We’re going to have to realistically accept it at what it is and we’ll get out of it, that’s all there is to it. We will definitely get out of it.”
Messages of hope and resilience have popped up in all kinds of places. Children, and also adults have colored the pavement in their neighborhoods with chalk, leaving verses from poems and feel-good mottos.
In Florida, one woman drew a smiling sun and wrote, “Always look on the bright side of life.” In Ohio, children wrote, “stay safe” and “wash your hands.”
And in Manhattan, a poster was tied to a wrought-iron fence in Riverside Park. It was decorated with marker-drawn rainbows and flowers, as well as a poem:
Spring, spring, a wonderful thing
the rain, the sun and the flowers
We will miss you this year, because we’re inside
all quarantined for hours
… And singing a song
In a feat of teleconferencing and video editing, a group of students from Berklee College of Music in Boston — singers, drummers, trombone and trumpet players — created what they called a virtual orchestra and performed the song, “What the World Needs Now is Love.”
“Just a little something to brighten your day,” one of the students who organized the performance wrote on YouTube.
Los Tres Tristes Tigres, a musical group whose name translates to the Three Sad Tigers, wrote a corrido about the situation gripping the world.
This one touched on panic, hoarded toilet paper and closing Disneyland — and included a request: Please wash your hands well.
A fine day for a (social distancing appropriate) parade
On Twitter, the actor John Krasinski asked his followers to help him find a respite from the chaos. “Send me the stories that have made you feel good this week,” he wrote, “or the things that just made you smile!”
A woman named April Danz replied, saying her daughter, Coco, had just finished chemo treatments. She included a video showing the delight on Coco’s face as she made her way up a street lined with cars decorated with balloons and posters, and a crowd — safely separated, of course — cheering her on her way home.
“Well this is one of the greatest things I’ve seen,” Mr. Krasinski wrote back.
Back on the air
Looking back at it now, Robert E. Kelly seems like a messenger from the future, warning of the perils that can accompany being a parent working from home.
Dr. Kelly, a professor of political science, gained a measure of global fame in 2017 after what was supposed to be a talking-head television appearance discussing South Korean politics exploded into a brilliant comedy of errors. (His children burst into the room and put on quite a show.)
Dr. Kelly, who quickly became known as “BBC Dad,” appeared on the BBC again recently, this time having his children with him intentionally. He and his wife were discussing their experiences dealing with measures in South Korea to handle the virus outbreak.
The children, a girl and boy, had grown since their earlier appearance, but they were still rambunctious.
“Sorry for my kids,” he told the interviewer, as his daughter latched onto him.
“They’re climbing the walls,” he added. “It’s just really, really tough.”
In the United States, one way of coping has been so-called rainbow hunts. A number of neighborhoods have been decorated with rainbows — in windows and on doors, in a variety of sizes — so that children can go out to search for them and burn some energy.
No books available, but take a roll of toilet paper
The network of Little Free Libraries, small wooden cabinets that allow people to donate or take books, started blossoming around the country about a decade ago. The organization behind it recently opened its 100,000th library in Houston.
But in the past few weeks, some of them have been transformed, with books replaced or augmented with canned goods, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and yarn and needles.
The libraries are a modest gesture meant to encourage a sense of community, usually through books, but they are evolving to meet the needs of the moment.
“They want to share, they want to help,” Greig Metzger, the executive director of Little Free Library, said of the stewards tending to individual libraries. “It’s a tangible and physical representation of people wanting to still be engaged and connected with community — and a physical demonstration of our better side, which is to help each other as best we can.”
A mesmerizing creation
Not everything has to be heartwarming. Sometimes, ingenious will do.
Joseph Herscher creates what he describes as “comical chain-reaction machines,” also known as Rube Goldberg machines. A video showing one of them has gained fresh attention on social media.
There’s no wrong time for a Rickroll
In Jefferson County, Colo., just outside of Denver, music teachers from a local school district put together a performance for their students, which was shared on social media. They wanted students to know they “can’t wait to make music together again.”
They also Rickrolled them.
In internet terms, it is an absolutely ancient meme, well over a decade old, in which unsuspecting people are misdirected to the video for “Never Gonna Give You Up,” a 1987 song by Rick Astley.
Reporting was contributed by Tim Arango and Jennifer Medina from Los Angeles, Mike Baker from Seattle, Jack Healy from Denver, Frances Robles from Key West, Fla., Simon Romero from Albuquerque, and Sandra E. Garcia, Amy Harmon, Shreeya Sinha and Pierre-Antoine Louis from New York.