In a potentially large coronavirus health crisis, we must all act with empathy, as a community
I was in the Beacon Street Star Market last week and heard a woman say, “Oh my God, you are the only store that has hand sanitizer, everyone else is sold out.” I was actually buying hand sanitizer for my home and office and about to leave the section, and it occurred to me to buy way more than I would need – and I caught myself. I thought: If everyone overbuys, no one will get though the next month.
We are all a bit nervous and have heard both sides of how bad and not so bad this health crisis could get. We all hope it gets better soon and that we are hit hard before it does. Most likely we will see our fair share of outbreaks and need to deal with it.
This all got me thinking about how special Cambridge can be – how when people rally and put our community first, there is no stopping us. It might be a large-scale fires where everyone supports first responders but does not give up until each family is housed, or individual families, kids or seniors that face a heavy lift and inspire us to rally.
As we enter this next stage, we should remember the economic impacts of the potential coronavirus crisis. Not all parents or individuals can afford to miss work, unless employers are understanding. Getting food delivered costs money. Many seniors and kids do not have a big support network, and Cambridge also has adults and students who are not from here and are alone. Think of all the impacts these issues can have on those without resources or a strong network. We also must be careful not to ostracizing kids and adults unnecessarily based on rumors of infection.
As children, my sisters and I would ride with my grandfather in the summers to deliver meals on wheels to isolated homes in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, which was suffering from factory closings. Rural poverty was new to us; it was an eye opener. But my grandfather knew everyone, treated them as friends and never judged. Now in Cambridge, when we are on Nextdoor, an email list or social media, we can find ways to help each other with the smallest of things. What seems like a transient neighborhood becomes solvent and tight-knit in crisis. Most neighborhoods have amazing civic leaders waiting to help.
As a community, we can get through anything. City and school leaders, health care providers, churches, our strong nonprofit network, universities, business associations, neighborhood groups, Internet groups, youth sports leagues, human services organizations, first responders – all can work together to create a network for help. Working to connect all these networks regardless of our affiliations is key. It will also require empathy and acceptance that any of us could be the victim and any of us could use help. Cambridge is at its best when we remember why we all love this place and why we live here.
Anthony D. Galluccio is a former mayor of Cambridge and state senator, and is a board member of the the Hildebrand Family Self Help Center and president of Galluccio Associates a 501(c)(3).