Love in the Time of COVID-19: Learning from Boston

 By Shlomo Maital  

   Love in the Time of Cholera (in Spanish: El amor en los tiempos del cólera) is a novel by the Colombian Nobel prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez. First published in 1985, an English-language movie adaptation was released in 2007.

   In the novel, a young national hero, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, meets Fermina and begins to court her. Despite her initial dislike of Urbino, Fermina gives in to her father’s persuasion and they marry. Urbino is a physician devoted to science, modernity, and “order and progress”. He is committed to the eradication of cholera and to the promotion of public works. He is a rational man whose life is organized precisely and who greatly values his importance and reputation in society. He is a herald of progress and modernization and the love of others.

     It’s a good time, as many of us hang out at home, to reread this novel. Because, there is a great deal of love in the time of COVID-19.

     Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert, who has COVID-19, joked on-line about it, thrust microphones at journalists, purposely touched surfaces – the kind of bravado that athletes often show in the time of danger and fear. The public reaction was fiercely negative. Govert has apologized and donated $500,000 to COVID-19 victims.

     Christiano Ronaldo, perhaps the world’s greatest football player, is at home, in Portugal (Madeira), in his incredible pad – but announced that he is converting the hotel chain he owns into hospitals, at his personal expense.

       But these two are celebs. What about ordinary people?

       I am very fond of Boston, MA., having taught 20 summers there, at MIT. “Boston strong” was the city’s reaction to the terrible bombing at the Boston Marathon.

   Now, Boston radio station WBZ reports on these acts of kindness, by ordinary people:

* Norfolk/Worcester County restaurants feed kids for free It started with Goodstuff Smokehouse in Blackstone, MA announcing “any student that comes in during weekday lunchtime (parents or not) will be given a free kids meal togo. No questions asked. We will continue to do this until area schools are back to normal.”That generous idea has since caught on among several other local eateries, including PJ’s Smoke ‘N’ Grill in Medway, and 140 Pub N Club in Bellingham.

   Many kids in the US are fed in schools…some, breakfast lunch and dinner. Closing the schools can bring hunger to these kids. Time for others to step up, including restaurants, that are empty anyway.

* The Greater Somerville Homeless Coalition is raising money to help some of the people who are at the highest risk for catching coronavirus; Boston’s homeless population.   Since the outbreak of coronavirus forced them to cancel their Gala, the Somerville Coalition has taken their fundraiser online. As of Saturday afternoon the Coalition is more than $13,000 towards its $70,000 goal. To help support Boston’s homeless population during the COVID-19 outbreak, click here.

* A group called Violence In Boston Inc. is providing free meals for BPS kids, and is accepting donations to help low income families around Boston impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Starting Sunday March 15 until Friday March 20, volunteers will be collecting supplies like soap, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer to donate to Boston’s families in need. They will be serving lunch and dinner for any BPS child in need of a meal.

* Thanks to the Charles River Mutual Aid Program, activists from various universities are mobilizing to provide mutual aid to students and other Boston-area residents who are in need of resources amid the COVID-19 outbreak. For students who have been kicked off their campuses, the organization will try to provide housing and storage space, although it is limited. They will be pooling funds in a Mutual Aid Fund to purchase food, medical supplies, and other necessities, and organizing to provide these resources to the community.  When universities decreed hasty closing, and emptied the dorms, they have not given thought to students who have nowhere else to live.

* The Boston Music Maker Relief Fund has been set up by The Record Co. to help Boston-based musicians whose work has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The organization will pay out $200 relief grants on a first come first serve basis.

* A Harvard Med Group Is Caring For The Senior Population. A group from Harvard Medical School says it is “making itself a hub for local efforts to care for the aged, isolated & needy during coronavirus.”

* The so-called Neighborhood Aid Network is helping people in need from Cambridge to Jamaica Plain by helping pick up groceries, giving rides to doctors appointments, and simply letting people know they are not alone.

   There is a terrible paradox in how we must react to COVID-19:   Social and individual resilience is driven by our network of love and support, among family friends and even strangers. Yet we are asked to maintain ‘social separation’ – the exact opposite. We will find ways to navigate this dilemma and come through it. Meanwhile, love in the time of COVID-19 will triumph over fear, panic and shelf-emptying hoarding.  

Can each of us think of some small way to spread love (not virus) in the time of COVID-19?