“though lives are being lost daily by the pandemic, hearts are growing and acts of kindness are everywhere.”

It appears there is nothing in the world we can talk about these days without the topic being somehow connected to the corona virus. I have been unpacking some of my observations and experiences, logging a range of reactions – good and bad – of this scourge that has spread over the earth in a matter of a few short months. I start with myself. I travel a lot and for decades I have been that curious looking passenger with face covered sanitizing around my seat including table and all ‘touchibles’ upon boarding. I am also the one that opens doors with tissue, wipes down groceries before packing them away, keeps hand sanitizer in my bag and offers fist-bumps or bows with hand over heart, for as long as I can remember. Feel free to judge me – while you wash your hands – please. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a hugger and love to greet kith and kin with genuine warmth but I have worked and lived on the Continent, visited numerous countries and raised 10 healthy children by being conscious of hygiene and healthy eating. So I confess, I am happy everyone is now on board. I am proud that Ethiopia has a ring tone about hand-washing. I am elated that public and private sector leaders from President Sahle Work to Dr. Eleni GebreMedhin are reinforcing what mama taught you growing up – wash your hands!
Inadvertently, has this horrible virus caused us to hit the re-set button on society’s attitude on something as simple as clean hands and proper hygiene, one of the best ways to thwart certain illnesses? This is crucial for Africa, as we have not felt the full brunt of the mysterious virus wreaking havoc on the world. Are we also resetting attitudes on either side of the social spectrum in regards to human relations? Recently, this country known for its hospitality towards foreigners has seen an increase in harassment, assaults and even denial of services to non-Ethiopians, right here in Addis Abeba based on virus instilled fear, suspicion and/or good ole mean spiritedness. On the other hand Ethiopian cordiality has been expressed by some advocating for a group of Italian tourists who reportedly refused to return to Italy based on reports of more illness and deaths than even China to date. I hold a different position, but I won’t judge, instead I washed my hands of the topic leaving it for others to debate…need I say excuse the pun? But seriously do your part and wash your hands.
Finally, though lives are being lost daily by the pandemic, hearts are growing and acts of kindness are everywhere and we need to focus and promote the positive while acknowledging and healing the negative. Scenes of self quarantined balcony singers serenading health workers every evening in Italy and Spain are moving. Free online platforms and tutorials are popping up for the nearly one billion students being homeschooled due to closures. Home based chefs in the USA, are now receiving a host of online options to keep them afloat by Chefthanded, one of the fast growing online solutions, supporting a large industry sequestered at home. And some good Samaritans are even offering free meals and groceries to the most vulnerable. But in what I consider a sweet surprise close to home was when I saw my sister friend, Yvette Noel-Schure’s instagram (IG) post. One of the busiest women in the music and entertainment industry, Yvette took time out of her busy day to talk to small children about the changes in their world due to the virus. Using her calm cool Caribbean aunty voice, she read a book to children, showing them some of the colorful illustrations as she explained culture and the locale of the author in Africa, Ethiopia specifically. According to award winning Jamaican journalist Vinette Pryce for Caribbean Life, the “Grenadian trailblazing publicist Yvette Noel-Schure is now Executive Producer at Tempo Network, the premiere Caribbean broadcast media domain that disseminates noteworthy lifestyles and cultural achievements from and about the region.” Yvette, CEO of Schure Media Group, is also known for accepting Roc Nation’s offer to “re-energize” the career of Jamaican dancehall artist, Buju Banton. All of this and more, the born in the 60’s dynamo cared enough to stop for a moment to help mom’s “run to the kitchen for a sandwich” while she read to the wee ones. It speaks volumes. We are not boasting here, but we are toasting which encourages even more good deeds. At this very daunting time, we all can and should help fill gaps in humanity noting the special role of art, books, music and more. Speaking of books Yvette was reading I LOVE LOCKS, written by me and she is best known as “Keeper of the Bey-Hive” the trusted publicist of Beyonce’. If she can find considerable time for acts of kindness, I challenge us to do the same, it’s healing.

Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.