Before the pandemic, political analysts, historians and journalists were describing this as one of the most polarized times in American history. Yet when coronavirus spread to the United States, we found a different story to tell.
Old divisions started to grow out of sight as we grew united by the shared anxieties about loved ones, the mission of protecting the most vulnerable among us and the shared sacrifices we’re making for the common good.
The harrowing reality of the past couple months has conversely revealed the beauty at the heart of human nature, and what God saw when he said, “It is good.” While fear, tragedy and isolation abound, heroism, selflessness and spiritual communion are flourishing.
If we need a reminder of how God is sustaining us during this difficult time we need to look no further than the people of Detroit. Here are five ways people are coming together to tackle coronavirus.
Getting creative for those on the periphery
Many of Detroit’s homeless rely on soup kitchens and food pantries for their one meal a day, so while schools and businesses have closed, these Catholic centers in Detroit are carrying on operations in a new setting: outside. They have set up tents with warming stations, sanitation stations, laundry, free clinics and even dentistry — all outside — with carry-out meals for patrons.
About a year ago, Grosse Pointe Woods resident Dianna Jakubiec started a “little free library” outside her home to help encourage reading in her community. After the mandate to shut down restaurants and bars was announced, she overheard restaurant employees discussing their worries about financial insecurities. So she got creative and set up a “little free pantry” in her yard beside the library. She explains, “I hate to see anyone go hungry because they couldn’t afford to work because of a sickness they can’t control.”
When schools closed, the founder of Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit didn’t want to see the kids in his neighborhood fall behind in school or go hungry. “It’s just part of being a family. If one of us fails, we all fail,” he explains. He and his staff put together care packages for kids in the neighborhood with food, items to meet their basic needs and academic packets.
Business, but not as usual
When a Birmingham distillery lost foot traffic due to coronavirus, they transitioned into hand sanitizer production to meet the needs of healthcare facilities facing shortages. The company has already produced 3,000 bottles and distributed them to first responders, healthcare workers, food banks, police departments, nursing homes and more.
Pontiac sewing company Detroit Sewn transitioned from creating pillowcases to medical face masks within a day and a half, reconfiguring its entire factory to meet the six-feet-apart guidelines while meeting the growing need for hospital masks.
Ford, 3M, GE Healthcare and the UAW teamed up to quickly expand the production of face shields, ventilators and respirators for healthcare workers, first responders and patients. “This is a time for action and cooperation.” explained a Ford chairman, “By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference.”
In this together
Sometimes all you need is a little reassurance. That’s the thought behind the Catholic Charities Phone Reassurance Program that is making daily phone calls to seniors and vulnerable adults who may be anxious during this time to comfort, advise and coordinate getting them supplies.
For some, the communities found in Detroit social media groups have been a lifeline. From the elderly neighbor relying on strangers for groceries to those struggling with substance abuse addictions, these groups remind us that being socially distant doesn’t mean we are alone.
Right now we all could use a cheerleader. That’s the thought behind these businesses that are offering messages of hope through their marquees, including “We’ve got this Detroit,” “We are all in this together. Now please go wash your hands,” and “Stay safe Detroit. We will get through this together.”
Low funds, loads of love
For many people and businesses, this lockdown has been a huge financial burden. Bedrock Detroit responded by waiving all rent and expenses for its small businesses during the outbreak to help them weather the storm. “It is going to take the entire community to mitigate the effects of this pandemic on the region,” explains the CEO, “and we are happy to do our part.”
As dine-in services at bars and restaurants have closed, several restaurant managers are doing what they can to help their staff. Some are setting up GoFundMe campaigns to help their employees while others are holding online concerts to benefit laid-off staff.
The iconic “Detroit VS. Everybody” clothing line is temporarily pivoting to “Detroit VS COVID-19” clothing and sending proceeds to the Detroit Small Business Stabilization Fund. The company founder explains, “Detroit VS Everybody is our battle cry to never give up in the face of adversity and to lift others as you lift yourself through the challenges life throws at you.”
Isolation, meet Detroit Catholics
Catholics are finding ways to stay spiritually close in this time of social distancing. Parishioners from St. Augustine and St. Monica in Detroit park outside of hospitals and, without leaving their cars, pray for doctors, nurses and the healing of patients.
The faithful are going digital: Fr. Steve Pullis hosts nightly Facebook Live videos to connect with quarantined Catholics looking for spiritual guidance and St. Aloysius’ Fr. Mario Amore hosts Instagram chats. The Companions of the Cross hosted Eucharistic Adoration on Facebook Live and members of the Detroit Catholic Young Adults group are praying the Divine Mercy chaplet together on their Instagram page.
A group of Detroit Catholic young adults has formed a Special Intercessory Prayer Team, welcoming people to submit intentions during this difficult time, and praying through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes to end the pandemic.
In the midst of worldwide pandemic, as people everywhere deal with great emotional, physical and social trials, we see acts of kindness, selflessness made by individuals, businesses, parishes, charities and communities to rise above COVID-19 in the Detroit metro area and beyond.
Detroit stands strong, even now.