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Back in 1979, the British singer-songwriter Ian Dury had a hit single with Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part Three. As alarming as the coronavirus crisis is, as distressing as it is and, for some, as devastating as it is, there are reasons to be cheerful. Covid-19 has not robbed us of everything. Amid all the anxiety and uncertainty and tragedy, the best part of humanity is not only surviving but flourishing. You don’t have to...
Anna Pukas Anna PukasApril 9, 202013 min
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good newsJohn Krasinski/YouTube

Back in 1979, the British singer-songwriter Ian Dury had a hit single with Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part Three.

As alarming as the coronavirus crisis is, as distressing as it is and, for some, as devastating as it is, there are reasons to be cheerful. Covid-19 has not robbed us of everything. Amid all the anxiety and uncertainty and tragedy, the best part of humanity is not only surviving but flourishing. You don’t have to look far to come across acts of kindness and selflessness between human beings all over the world.

  • Weddings may be banned but getting married isn’t. A couple in New York, dressed in full wedding finery, exchanged their vows in the street, with an official leaning out of a third floor window to conduct the ceremony. And in Hull, northern England, newlyweds Fiona and Adam Gordon donated all the food from their cancelled wedding reception to 400 staff at two local hospitals.

  • Places of worship may be closed but worship itself has not stopped. Religion has gone hi-tech with mosques, churches and synagogues connecting with their congregations via streaming services. One priest called it “a 21st century miracle.”

  • With mosques closed across the Middle East, the call to prayer is answered with mats spread out on lawns, at bus stops and street corners. A priest conducting a virtual service in the US reminded his congregation that the need for social distancing “doesn’t mean that your sofa or your kitchen table or your back porch can’t also be a very holy place.”

  • In Italy, one of the virus hotspots, a law enforcement official donated his entire month’s salary (about $2,100) to buy groceries for everyone at one of his local stores in Palermo. Police officers in the Sicilian capital are also preparing care packages to leave on doorsteps. “We knew that many people, for their own dignity, would not ask for help, but would need it,” Colonel Michele Monti told CNN. “We know that a lot of this need was hidden.”

  • Hollywood stars are doing their bit to spread cheer. Actor and director John Krasinski of The Office fame appealed on social media for heartwarming stories from the public and got so many replies that he started his own feelgood channel on YouTube, SGN, which stands for Some Good News. (The colorful logo was drawn by his daughters Hazel, six, and Violet, three.) One of the first stories he broadcast was about 15-year-old Coco Dantz, who came home from her last session of chemotherapy to find the street where she lives lined with well-wishers cheering and waving balloons and “welcome home” banners – all standing the required two meters apart.

  • Oscar-winning actor Leonardo di Caprio has joined forces with Apple, the Ford Foundation and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, to establish America’s Food Fund with a $12 million donation. The Fund will provide food for the most vulnerable people in the US.

  • Singer, actress and businesswoman Dolly Parton has also donated, sending $1 million to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee where her friend, the Lebanese-American surgeon Dr Naji Abumrad, is part of a team researching a potential ‘cure’ for coronavirus.

  • Sir Elton John hosted a live concert from his living room to raise money for charity and entertain those in lockdown. Billie Eilish, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and others joined in the event, which streamed live on TV and YouTube.

  • All over the world, engineers and technicians from other fields are turning their considerable skills to other, more pressing uses:  manufacturing much-needed ventilators. The Ventilator Challenge UK consortium in the UK includes teams from Formula 1 Racing, Airbus and Rolls Royce. In the past week, 20,000 entirely new prototype ventilators – designed from scratch in a matter of weeks – have been added to the total number of machines destined for Britain’s hard-pressed National Health Service.

  • University College London and Mercedes F1 recently announced that they have made a breathing aid for coronavirus patients which transports oxygen to the lungs, reducing the need for a ventilator. Dyson, the vacuum cleaner and washing-machine manufacturers, have also developed a new ventilator model.

  • After years of exploitation in Italy’s fruit-picking industry, a group of African migrant workers formed a co-operative in 2011 selling vegetables and yogurt. While no one would blame them if they felt less than charitable toward their host country, the cooperative, named Barikama (it means “strength” in the Bamara dialect of Mali), is now packing and delivering boxes to help feed housebound Italians.

  • Help came from an unlikely source when the Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, needed help getting 1.2 million medical-grade face masks from China. The president of Boston’s local American football team, the New England Patriots, authorized use of the team’s jet to fly to Shenzhen to pick up the much-needed supplies. There was just one stipulation; the crew had to stay on the plane while it was being loaded in order to avoid being quarantined for 14 days.

  • Neighborliness has extended beyond individuals and communities to entire countries. Germany is using its air force to fly in Covid-19 patients from Italy and France, offering up to 120 intensive care beds. “We can only manage this together,” said Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Mass.

  • In these challenging times, social media is both a boon and a curse. So it is reassuring to see that Twitter has deleted 20,000 fake accounts whose sole aim was spreading discord.

  • With humans confined to their homes, Mother Nature is reclaiming the Earth. In Britain, a herd of wild goats have come down from the mountains of north Wales to roam the deserted streets of the coastal town of Llandudno. “From ghost town to goats’ town,” quipped one commentator on Twitter. The goats usually shy away from human contact but can now be seen happily munching on hedges and garden plants. Curiously – and commendably – the goats also seem to be maintaining social distancing. After a month with no gondolas or cruise ships, the canals of Venice are crystal clear with fish swimming in them. A deer was spotted wandering around a cathedral. Satellite images show a remarkable reduction in air pollution and in cities all over the world, the loudest sound now is birdsong.

  • Perhaps most of all, Covid-19 has caused a spotlight to shine, for once, on those who usually pass unnoticed through society. The “Clap for the Carers” movement that has taken hold in so many countries has now moved decisively beyond thanking health professionals to encompass the likes of delivery workers, garbage collectors, street cleaners, shop workers, supermarket cashiers and postmen.

Anna Pukas

Anna Pukas

Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.

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