We definitely live in interesting times. The coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is sweeping the globe, there’s no vaccine, it’s killing many people with underlying medical conditions, such as the elderly and infirmed, and it’s spreading fast enough to make most of us very, very nervous.
One of the worst parts, though, is social distancing. We don’t have the help we did before, or the social contact we did before, and even just going to the grocery store can seem like a relieving foray back into the world-that-was. But since this virus is much more deadly for elderly people, places like nursing homes and care centers have taken strict precautions regarding visitors. Which means that older people, who probably look forward to visits and chats with friends and relatives on a weekly basis, are now more alone than ever.
Enter Saturday Night Live phenom and genuinely stellar example of how to human, Heidi Gardner. She found herself thinking about that one day, and posted this idea to her Instagram story: handwrite a letter to a nursing home in all 50 states.
She posted images of the letters she was writing (adorable stationery, btw!), and encouraged people to take some time to share the love in a similar way.
Heidi just wanted to let residents know they hadn’t been forgotten, they are loved, and that we are all in this together.
She then posted an example to her Instagram page in case people wanted to help, but were at a bit of a loss as to how to get started.
Heidi’s story and subsequent Instagram post touched people everywhere – people who, coincidentally, also found themselves with extra time on their hands.
They began to reply with pictures of their own cards, like this person, who had a double-bonus of being able to downsize her greeting card collection.
And this person, who bought a few too many Valentine’s Day cards and is now going to use them to spread the love to seniors around the country.
It’s become a bit of a family affair, with Heidi’s younger brother being one of the first to reply with images of his own effort…
And then her other brother hopped on the very-worthy bandwagon.
He even decided to throw some flower seed packets in each one, too.
With a little time, help, and patience, flowers will appear and literally brighten days for weeks on end!
Not to be left out, Heidi’s sister-in-law is also sending letters of her own!
While just sending little bits of lovely words and pretty cards in the mail is sure to make days in nursing homes everywhere, some people have taken Heidi’s idea and really run with it! They’re doing things like including images of their pets in the cards, and this pup is about to be Everyone’s Pet!
That face, you guys! How can you see that and not smile?
This cat has decided to help his human overlords feel better today, and that face is very good at spreading cheer, I think.
What’s amazing is that many people are following Heidi’s lead and not sending one, but stacks of letters.
Given that there are hundreds of thousands of seniors out there stuck in thousands of homes around the country, the more people who write, the better.
I love that Heidi is inspiring people to take some time out of their days to do something nice for others, especially at a time when we all have our own particular stressers. There’s something about people personalizing and hand writing these that make the gesture even more special.
I can’t imagine the people who read these letters won’t be touched (without the actual touching, so no rules will be broken!).
Recently, a news station picked up the story, quoting Mr. Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
It’s never a bad thing to be part of Mr. Rogers’ legacy!
This is Heidi Gardner with the idea, and the platform, and people everywhere with good hearts, being helpers and doing excellent work amongst the current chaos.
We’re all struggling a bit with the idea that a virus could hurt so many people we love – and people we don’t know at all, too – and that life as we know it is going to be disrupted for the near future.
Why not use some of your time to not only reflect on what social distancing means for you and your family, but for other people, too?
If you want to get involved in Heidi’s idea to mail cards to nursing home residents, get creative! Your kids could draw pictures, you could steal the seed idea (I love it!), you could send pics of your own adorable animals.
Or just write heartfelt messages that remind people they’re not alone in this whirlwind of madness.
I honestly can’t think of a better use for our time, and also, I can’t wait to hear about the inevitable pen pal relationships that result from these unexpected connections! Be safe out there, my friends. As importantly, be kind. Be caring.
And when you look for the helpers, I hope you find yourself among them.