White Coat, Black Art

Toronto woman's path to pandemic resilience goes through her front door

Amid the first lockdown in March 2020, Heidi Tsao started posting drawings and jokes on her front door to help lift spirits in her community. "Finding something little" to do every day has kept her going and helped build her resilience.

'I just wanted to participate in our community,' says Heidi Tsao

Heidi Tsao started posting illustrations on her front door, hoping to help lift spirits in her east end Toronto neighbourhood. (Nico Birch)

This is a story from White Coat, Black Art's series called Prescription for Resilience: Coping with COVID on the many challenges people are facing during the pandemic, and what they're doing to find resilience.

For Heidi Tsao, finding resilience during the pandemic started by opening her front door.

When the first lockdown began last March, Tsao felt she had to do something to try to help lift spirits in her east-end Toronto neighbourhood and her community on social media. 

Initially, Tsao started posting drawings and "dad jokes" on her front door after noticing residents going for walks and passing by her house every day. 

Soon people started telling her that they looked forward to seeing her door messages.

"Sometimes families would say, 'Oh, we come by every day to read your joke.' And that was very rewarding because it made me realize that someone was seeing them and and enjoying them," said Tsao, a digital strategist for a telecommunications company, who considers herself lucky for being able to work from home during the pandemic.

Tsao, who relishes word play and puns, says her neighbours started telling her that they looked forward to seeing her door posts each day. (Heidi Tsao)

"But it also felt good knowing that they were making a daily trip and having this daily ritual to come see the door.

"I just wanted to participate in our community, and show the community that, yes, there is something terrible going on, but we can still find laughter and have a smile each day," said Tsao.

Sense of purpose

For Tsao, the daily door post provided a sense of contribution amid the uncertainty and disruptions wrought by the pandemic.

"What has helped me is helping others," said Tsao.

But as the pandemic stretched into months, her door postings evolved, reflecting moments of gratitude, to the impact of the killing of George Floyd, to struggling local businesses affected by COVID.

Drawing her door posts has kept her going and given her purpose — and as an added bonus, she realized that her drawing skills improved as she went along.

"There's so many things that we can't do ...  and certainly there are people who are in a much worse place than I am. But if we cultivate that feeling of thanks for what we have, then I think we'll be better off," she said.

Tsao's @greendoorposts have included illustrations featuring moments of gratitude and highlighting local businesses hit hard by COVID-19. (Heidi Tsao/Nico Birch)

"I feel like I've discovered a little bit of a secret: finding something little that you enjoy and gives you that little boost and doing it every day — and also having something to look forward to ... can really help motivate you and keep moving you forward. And I think you can really build some resilience."


Written by Ruby Buiza. Produced by Rachel Sanders

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