Calgary

OPINION | Calgary must come together in this time of social distancing

The question we must ask is what story will we tell years from now about how we responded to the COVID-19 crisis?

When we respond to fear by turning to each other, we are all stronger together

Many Calgarians look back on the 2013 flood as a time when we showed the best of who we are as a city and as a province. (Courtesy the Calgary Sun)

This column is an opinion from Rev. Ryan Andersen, the lead organizer for the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good.

Suddenly grocery shelves are empty. Coffee shops have a solitary customer who comes and then goes. These are all signs of the fear that is growing across our country.

It is understandable that people are feeling fearful as the coronavirus and cases of COVID-19 spread around the world. 

The question is, how will we respond to this fear? 

One response is to turn inward, isolate, hoard supplies and look out for yourself. 

But human history has shown that another response to fear is not only possible, it is much stronger.

Faith communities, labour unions, charities and corporations have all demonstrated that when we respond to fear by turning to each other, we are all stronger together.

We only need to think back to the flood of 2013. We faced a crisis and people turned to support each other.

Countless Calgarians volunteered to help each other clean up. People made sandwiches to share. Many opened their homes to give shelter. Others took the time to listen when people were overcome by the shock of it all.

Many Calgarians continue to look back on that period as a time when we showed the best of who we are as a city and as a province. This coming together and looking after each other is how we nurture and build the common good.

So yes, lets "flatten the curve" by practising social distancing, and at the same time let's find ways to connect and support each other. 

Instead of stockpiling food, if you know someone who is self-isolating, drop off some food on their porch with some extra toilet paper. 

The story we tell years from now about how we responded to the COVID-19 crisis is the story each of us is writing today. Let's make it a story of coming together and looking after each other, like we did during the flood. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

Take the time to look around your neighbourhood. Who may be vulnerable? Who is older? Who has health issues? Who is isolated or living month to month? Drop off a note of support. Find out their phone number and give them a call on a regular basis, to make sure they are OK and so they know people are looking out for them. 

Let's also support our health care workers.

They have been asked to step into the eye of this storm. We will be asking them not only to work long hours, but also to risk their own lives and the lives of their families as they care for the rest of us.

Consider dropping off a care package. Help them with their childcare. Send a note of support.

When this is over, we need to continue to support them and honour the sacrifices they make, both during this crisis and on a daily basis.  

As a community, let's take action together.

Premier Jason Kenney took a good first step when he announced changes to the labour code to protect workers who need to be isolated for 14 days.

We also need our political and business leaders to make sure no one becomes homeless because they have been laid off and can't pay rent. Let's make sure barriers to getting EI are lowered so people can feed their families and our economy doesn't collapse. Let's make sure our homeless have a place to sleep that is not on cots separated by a few inches. 

The question we must ask is what story will we tell years from now about how we responded to the COVID-19 crisis?

Will it be a story of coming together or falling apart?

The reality is that the story we tell will be the story that each of us is writing today.


This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Rev. Ryan Andersen is the lead organizer for the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good, which unites 30 organizations representing 35,000 Calgarians, to create a more just and compassionate city. You can follow Ryan @PrRyanAndersen or the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good @CommonGoodYYC

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