Thank You Quarantine: Redefining Community in Self-Quarantine

I think it’s safe to say that no one will be the same after the coronavirus. We’re currently living in a historic time in which our normal human activity has ceased, impacting everyone on a global level. Parents who are usually working all day are now working from home and taking care of their kids whose teachers are coming up with inventive ways of teaching over Zoom and Google Classroom. The class of 2020 had the first ever online graduation, and people are going viral on social media for inventing COVID-proof contraptions to hug their mothers and grandmothers on Mother’s Day. Let’s not forget the doctors and nurses are receiving the applause they deserve for facing the unimaginable on the frontlines of this pandemic, and for the essential workers, their average workday has turned into a health risk.

This pandemic has changed the way we look at life, the way we value physical touch, and define community and its importance. It’s like when you’re sick, your nose is stuffed up, and you realize how much you take advantage of being able to breathe out of both nostrils. The world is like that right now: it’s sick, and one of its nostrils is clogged, and we humans are starting to rethink the things we value most in life because when you can’t breathe correctly, nothing else matters.

Amidst this corona-mayhem and feeling the weight of literally thousands of lost lives, of frustrating leaders, of disappointment, and of anger for so many people, I’ve found a lot of hope and happiness in the strengthening of community. Probably one of the first things I saw that made me think, “Wow, humans are awesome,” was the YouTube video of people in Italy singing off their balconies during quarantine. There are also videos of people in Spain doing exercise classes on their roofs and people joining on their balconies, playing instruments, dancing, and whole cities erupting in applause at the same time each day to thank medical workers. It’s important that we acknowledge the way that communities all around the world have come together to lift each other's spirits and support one another. The compassion people are showing for one another is truly remarkable and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

Fortunately, we are living in a time where technology is abundant in our everyday lives, and thanks to livestreams and social media, there's been a huge spike in virtual communities. A lot of musicians are live streaming concerts from their home, talk-show host Jimmy Fallon is doing an at-home series where he hosts from his house with his kids and invites guests via Zoom onto his show. The World Health Organization along with Global Citizen put on the “One World: Together At Home” live stream concert last month which featured performances by Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Elton John, Billie Eilish, and other musicians to raise money for COVID relief efforts and Mutual Aid groups. People all around the world were donating and participating in the ways they could to raise awareness and keep spirits high during these times.

A project that stood out to me in my own community in Evanston was started by a longtime friend of mine, Michelle Pacheco. Michelle is a 2020 graduate from Saint Louis University and worked with a custom apparel company to create t-shirts and sweatshirts that say “Evanstrong” for the purpose of doing something to help her community during their self-quarantine. She sells them not only in hopes to uplift the community but with a plan to donate the proceeds to the Evanston Rapid Response Fund, which will divide the money between different nonprofits organizations in the area. Michelle found a lot of her inspiration in Evanston as a community to start this project, and describes her community as being similar to an extended family. She says, “everyone from here [Evanston] has so much pride and love for the people, the schools, the businesses and everything that makes up our city. Everyone does the best they can to support each other especially during tough times like these.”

The efforts made by Michelle are not only boosting the morale of Evanstonians but also teaching us that there is always something more we can do. She says, “I hope that even though I am just one student, I can create some visibility for our community, a sense of belonging. This is only a small thing one person can do but when a ton of people do a small thing it amounts to something much larger, each drop in the bucket does matter. I hope people wear these with pride and are reminded that our community is there for each other.”

Michelle’s unifying efforts of giving back to the community of Evanston shows that we are not only seeing redefinition but restoration of community during quarantine. Human kindness has been tested, and when we’re told all the things we can’t do, we start to unify and turn towards the things we can do for others and our communities at large. Now more than ever, people are coming together and I hope that in this way we can continue to inspire resilience in ourselves and our communities. My hope is that we as a people continue to reflect and appreciate the things we take most for granted. I hope that in our lives post-quarantine we will hug our grandparents a little tighter, we will say “thank you” more often, we will continue to contribute to relief funds around the world, and we remember how we continued to show up for one another, even when our world got turned upside down.