They have checked up on their older neighbors every day during the pandemic. They have gone out on the streets to offer people living on them food and empathy. They have taught online all week long and then on the weekends cooked casseroles to deliver to the families of students they fear might not have enough to eat. When they've lost their jobs or had their hours cut or had to shut their businesses during the pandemic, they've used this new unwished-for free time to look around and say, Sure I'm hurting, but how can I help those hurting more? In the two weeks since I asked you to tell me about those in Los Angeles who do great good for others, hundreds of your emails and messages and texts have flooded both my heart and my inboxes.
Nearly a year ago, I told you about a small act of kindness to a homeless man and his corgi that had grown into something much larger for all those it touched. It pulled at a lot of your heartstrings -- in good part, I think, because dog love runs deep, and corgi lovers are particularly ardent. I told you about the man and his corgi and the couple who had stepped in to help them early last March, less than two weeks before COVID-19 shut down California. And, despite how many more people have found themselves in dire straits in the ensuing crisis, I've never stopped hearing from those eager for the latest on how dog and man were faring. I'm glad to say that the update I'm bringing you at long last may offer some respite from the current grim news.
Let me tell you from the get-go that the creator of one of the nation's largest and most diverse grass-roots mask-making efforts did not intend to start a movement, to mobilize the masses, to spend the last year searching out under-resourced communities and commandeering fabric and elastic to give away thousands of COVID-19 face masks. A year ago March, before she launched a Facebook group called the Auntie Sewing Squad, performance artist and comedian Kristina Wong was like so many of the rest of us at the start of the pandemic. Anyone else?" she posted on Facebook. Suddenly, she was a shut-in, stuck in her Koreatown apartment, watching her life as she'd planned it implode. She'd been about to tour her latest show. But date after date canceled, leaving her out $7,000. In live videos, she mused that this might be a time to clean the house, organize computer files, "turn inward." But that isn't what she did. She offered help to others. This is a story about how help, once offered, ...
One day we will be on the other side of this terrible time, looking back. One day we will be telling people about COVID-19, people who didn't live through the fear of getting it or watch those they loved die from it or scramble to get shots to be safe from it or experience how it felt when it shut us inside and separated us from one another for months or took away our livelihoods or forced us to work and live in conditions suddenly perilous due to its daily threat. One day we will be far enough away from it to start to digest and try to make sense of this strange time out of time, when the coronavirus changed everything, but so much else also took place. Even now, sometimes it's hard to remember all that has happened in L.A. since the virus upended our lives last March. Distance is sure to make remembering patchier. So preserving a rich record of daily life in the pandemic as we are living through it is essential groundwork for that future, much-longed-for looking-back time.
You wake up on a bus, surrounded by all your remaining possessions. A few fellow passengers slump on pale blue seats around you, their heads resting against the windows. You turn and see a father holding his son. But one man, with a salt-and-pepper beard and khaki vest, stands near the back of the bus, staring at you. You feel uneasy and glance at the driver, wondering if he would help you if you needed it. When you turn back around, the bearded man has moved toward you and is now just a few feet away.