10 Positive Patterns that Defined 2020

Mar 30, 2023

Summary: The year 2020 is now history. This unprecedented year simultaneously faced incredible loss and some remarkable goodness. KarunaVirus.org's editors took a look back at the last nine months and assembled our 10 most memorable news stories and patterns that have given us hope in this unparalleled year.

Dan Burton | Unsplash
As we turn the corner with 2020 now behind us, we can't help but think how it has been a year of many things. Thanks to the opportunity to see through the lens of everyday people choosing love over fear, our editors observed ten patterns of positive deviance that have defined this unexpected year.

1. Feeding Others
Times of crisis brings us back to basics. Feeding others is one of them. This year gave rise to hoards of people feeding others -- remarkable youth to a Covid-surviving grandmother, a Michelin-star chef to musician Jon Bon Jovi -- people turned up again and again to feed their fellow community members. Labor-of-love efforts often took on lives of their own. Shortly after the pandemic hit, two 20-something year-olds amassed 1,300 volunteers over 72 hours -- becoming "Invisible Hands" to help deliver groceries to elders in NYC. College students in California and impromptu volunteers in Washington state reroute millions of pounds of surplus crops and food to food banks. In Nepal, a volunteer used 1 million rupees of his family savings to prepare home-cooked lunches for hospital patients and workers. In Thailand, Covid Thailand Aid workers delivered care packages to countless citizens, while in Vietnam, Chi's "impulse" to feed others led to a "profound awakening". Sikh communities prepare thousands of meals regularly for anyone who would like it, from Los Angeles to New York City. Farmers in Brazil design systems to deliver farm-fresh food to families in the favelas. On unsuspecting sidewalks, community fridges have sprung up from Seattle and Oakland to across the ocean in Hong Kong. In New Jersey, and newspaper delivery man became a grocery lifeline for 100 elderly households. In Texas, a woman living out of her car delivers lunches to the homeless in her free time. Households have left snacks for delivery drivers, one nurse created a hospital free pantry, well-wishers have been anonymously ordering meals for thousands of delivery drivers in China -- one of whom received an unexpected birthday gift, and, as recently as last week, one Arkansas woman quietly paid over $28,000 for everyone's groceries in two supermarkets on Christmas Eve.

2. Deeper Standards for Economy
As weeks and months of pandemic lockdown upended employment rates and economies in various sectors, people rose up to find creative ways to meet the deeper purpose of our economic systems -- to provide quality standards of living and livelihood -- for their fellow community members. In April, New Zealand lawmakers, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, took a six month 20% pay cut in solidarity with other workers. Kent Taylor, founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, forgoed his year's salary to his frontline hourly workers. At the start of the pandemic, Starbucks raised hourly workers' salaries $3 per hour, with CEO Kevin Johnson noting that "not every decision is a financial one" and "No partner should be asked to choose between work and their health." Moreover, throughout the year, caring customers walked into restaurants facing shutdowns and left hefty tips for all the staff. Beyond the pandemic, New Zealand couple Dick and Jillian Jardine bowed to the priceless when they turned away multiple developers' offers to purchase 900 hectares of pristine land they owned, donating it instead to Queen Elizabeth II National Trust for "the benefit and enjoyment of all New Zealanders." In Massachusetts, an electrician repairs a 72-year-old woman's home for free -- accidentally galvanizing a movement of people across the U.S. fixing up isolated elders' homes.

Despite a tumultuous year for the economy, some areas give more than before. The nation of New Zealand raised their minimum wage to $20 an hour starting April 2021, while voters of Geneva, Switzerland -- the world's 10th most expensive city to live in -- raised theirs to $25 an hour, which is believed to be the highest in the world. And some places even innovated their own monetary systems. To encourage charitable giving, Australia unveiled a "Donation Dollar" coin in September, designed to be given away. The small city of Tenino, Washington created a local wooden currency to stimulate spending on local businesses. As a personal aspiration, former billionaire Chuck Feeney, cofounder of Duty Free Shoppers, fulfilled his life goal: to give all his money to charity with the intention to die broke. "It’s a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you're dead," he summed up. And in medical care, even before the pandemic, surgeon Demetrio Aguila in Nebraska allows patients to pay for their treatment by volunteering, while internal medicine doctor Gulshan Harjee gave up her lucrative private practice to see patients free of charge.

3. Kindness in Uniform
"Essential worker" is a term rarely heard before 2020. This year, appreciation for extraordinary contributions and everyday kindness of workers in uniform -- delivery drivers, grocery store employees, healthcare workers, construction crews, and more. Music videos poured out across internet spheres, honoring frontline workers. Spanish police officers alleviated coronavirus anxiety by playing joyous music in the streets for citizens on lockdown. Covid patients attribute the caring presence of unsung hospital janitors with giving them the spirit to stay alive. Cuba sends an "Army of White Coats" doctors to support countries' coronavirus shortages. A Virginia neighborhood lines up to shower love for their beloved UPS driver as clapping from balconies became a global gratitude symbol for healthcare workers everywhere. Kansas City's NFL lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out of this year's American football season to put his McGill University medical degree to work on hospital frontlines. American Girl Dolls honor frontline workers with one-of-a-kind dolls. In one day in New York City, 1,000 nurses and doctors enlisted to serve on the covid-19 frontlines. As nurses in Tennessee prayed for their patients daily, a NYC nurse starts "Hope Huddles" to boost spirits in trying work, and an airline company surprised 4,000 hospital staff with free vacations.

4. Living Their Legacies
The shared experience of pandemic has brought the impermanence of life to the forefront of our collective experience. In the process, many who have passed inspired countless others to live their legacies of love. In Italy, Father Giuseppe passed away after voluntarily giving up his respirator to a younger patient. In the U.S., when George Floyd's untimely death ignited racial reckoning across the globe, thousands paid respects, and a rap star offered to pay college tuition costs for Floyd's six year-old, who observed, "Dad changed the world." The passing of beloved leaders like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis, reminded us of the world of possibility each individual carries to provide a better future for others. And as countless families around the world grieve the loss of loved ones, they also find ways to bring forth the spirit and values for which they stood. In April, Saturday Night Live star Michael Che honored his grandmother after she passed away from coronavirus by paying one month's rent for 160 households in her former apartment building. In Germany, when Thomas Edelman confirmed his grandfather, a Nazi, had bought his business from a Jewish family forced to flee during WWII, he tracked down the family's living relative to apologize. In Guatemala, the resilience in one couple finding solace through dance brings a little joy, and love, to many hearts.

5. Racial Reckoning
Disproportionate pandemic tolls on Black and Latino Americans, in conjunction with video footage of George Floyd's death, and high-profile killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others spurred months of protest across the U.S. and around the world, as generations of systemic racial inequity came to the forefront of national and global dialogue. Corporations, professional sports teams, universities, local governments and community members have formally made long-awaited changes. Washington's National Football League team dropped its Redskins name after 87 years. U.S. Soccer's board of directors voted to allow players to kneel during the national anthem. NASCAR removed its display of the Confederate flag at races. 130-year-old pancake brand Aunt Jemina vowed to change its image as grocery store chain, Trader Joe's, made a call to rename its ethnic food brands. Barbie's 2020 campaign team features a black female candidate for president. And amid news of violence and protests turning into riots, everyday individuals sought for unity through small acts -- from friends inspiring basketball games across difference, volunteer clean-ups, and moments of kindness and solidarity across protest lines, from the US to UK to France. In an unlikely ripple spurred by a moment of rage, a teen finds a mentor in the Miami police officer he had caused to suffer a concussion.

6. Paying it Forward
Times of struggle brought forth spades of anonymous individuals paying forward their blessings. In November, an ice cream store drive-thru in Minnesota witnessed 900 customers pay for the orders behind them over two-and-a-half days straight. In Stockton, UK, a 6-year-old sparked a pay-it-forward chain at McDonalds by asking his mom to cover breakfast for the car behind them. Florida, one person anonymously distributed $200 gift cards to members of the community, sparking others to do the same. Many U.S. citizens who didn't need their stimulus checks found ways to pass it along. Early on in the pandemic, a San Francisco restaurant gave away 120 meals daily, on a free or pay-it-forward basis.

7. Youth Take Action
With activities canceled and school online, youth around the world themselves channeling their energy to serve the greater good. While sheltering at home, kids in Italy made drawings for their parents in hospitals and windows. In California, one neighborhood's children channeled their art and ideas into a newsletter for their community. As the pandemic hit, a 7-year-old Emma Shariat wanted to help -- so she began coordinating errand services for the elderly. Lemonade stands sprouted up to help others. 6-year-old Cayden Cummings donated $1,020 in lemonade stand earnings to his local school as 11-year-old Cartier Carey's snack stand earnings supplied local moms in his community with diapers and wipes. Outside his home, 8-year-old Eagle Jayagoda started a weekly Little Free Food Table, as teens in California create a free store. In the face of dire circumstances in India, a lion-hearted girlbiked her injured and out-of-work migrant dad 700 miles home. In Australia, as koala populations face threads from the devastating bushfires and drought, one school of students build koala habitats in their hometown. More broadly, facing questions of climate change risks in their lifetime, eight teenagers sue Australia to block a coal mine extension. In Europe, a lawsuit filed by six Portuguese youth aged 8-21 gets fast-tracked to 33 European nations. After the hard-hitting late summer derecho storm in Iowa, 12-year-old Tommy Rhomberg made 115 baseball bats from fallen tree timber to raise money for storm victims. In Japan, 13-year-old Hime Takimoto used her own savings to make 612 masks for essential workers, and 21-year-old Koki Ozora's suicide-prevention messaging service mushroomed to 500 volunteers at the start of the pandemic in March. In Texas, a boy scout created "hug booths" for a local nursing home, giving isolated elders a way to embrace friends and family. And not only youth -- but elders young at heart find ways to roll up their sleeves in service. In the UK, 100-year-old Tom Moore made global headlines, received over 125K birthday cards, and even was awarded knighthood for his feat of walking laps in his backyard -- an act that raised over 32 million pounds for the NHS.

7. We Are One
The past year of pandemic, precarious economies, severe weather patterns, and widespread societal reckonings have humbled and brought us closer to the spirit that makes us human. Unprecedented news events found themselves punctuated with extraordinary acts of oneness across species. In Portland, a benign being, Caesar the llama, befriended all sides of protest, bringing people together in remarkable ways. In New York City, a 17-pound sick swan managed to ride the subway to find help, with the help of Ariel Cordova Rojas and a stream of strangers along the way. In Atlanta, Georgia, food writer Angela Hansberger created a tiny picnic table with miniscule dishes for a chipmunk: "It’s silly, yes, but sometimes silliness is needed." In Florida, a pitt bull named Dude and a kitten named Ace became unlikely best buddies, their mischievous diversions providing welcome joy in the house amid a difficult year. After the Beirut explosion on August 4th, which reportedly killed 204, injured 6,500 and left 300,000 people homeless, a group committed to animals worked tirelessly to reunite lost or injured animals with their owners. When wildfires spread across California this summer, ranch owner Beth Killough, one of several property owners who housed displaced farm animals across the region, noted, "When people need help, the word spreads faster than fires."

9. The Arts Say What We All Feel
If the arts mirror the times, this year the creative arts had plenty of material to express. From Julliard students to Couch Choirs, virtual performances life spirits, weave unity, and foster celebrity support for frontline workers. Crowdsourced music videos also surged -- like the heartfelt production that ensued when singer Jason Mraz asked people to point their cameras at love. The resounding lockdown humor of one UK family's Les Misérables rendition delighted strangers globally. As Los Angeles businesses closed for the first round of lockdowns in April, The Getty Museum found a creative and downright humorous way for anyone to bring the museum home. A bored couple in London created a masterpiece museum for their pet gerbils. Even with social distance, one brother drove 1,400 miles to play trombone outside his brother's window. Neighborhoods came together through outdoor music. Kids played cello for their self-isolating elderly neighbor. Adam Chester, who subs for Elton John during rehearsals, rocked out in "quaranchella concerts" on his street. In Germany, music literally poured from rooftops. In South Korea, one violinist performed to comfort a family of three outside their quarantined hospital room. At a Utah hospital's ICU, a Covid-19 patient brought tears to health workers when he played his violin while intubated to thank hospital staff. In NYC, Dr. Rachel Easterwood called on musician friends to play remotely for isolated patients. At an empty airport in Germany, artists performed one-on-one concerts. In Silicon Valley, one teen began giving free online music lessons while, in Colorado, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor diligently learned how to video conference so her piano students' annual Spring recital would not be canceled. Finally, a viral bedtime story video unpacks the silver lining of the pandemic: The Great Realization.

10. If You Can Dance, Dance!
Finally, one practice of resilience that surfaced, literally and metaphorically, is the power of simple acts of joy. Atlanta gospel singer KD French captured the humorous feeling of working at home with her stunning vocals belting: "At The Fridge Again". In British Colombia, 6-year-old Callaghan McLaughlin regales neighbors in laughter from his driveway joke stand. In Colombia, 8-year-old dog, Eros, trots through city streets to deliver groceries from his owner's store to home-bound families. Across airwaves, The Office star John Krasinski struck a deep chord with his viral homemade episodes of Some Good News. From a farming couple's viral shuffle dance videos upon learning dance to come out of depression, to a homeless man walking down the street, to father-daughter duo taking on a TikTok dance challenge, to the daily routine between a mail carrier and 3-year-old, to a father's parking lot routine for his son looking down during chemotherapy treatments, to an 11-year-old Nigerian boy's ballet dance in the mud, to a 97-year-old's daily porch dance to Justin Timberlake that leaves all neighbors smiling -- there's no other way to say it: if you can dance, dance! Even when no one's watching. 21-year-old Kallayah Jones' "happy dance" after a positive job interview after a series of dead ends, resulted in a phone call: "I'm going to hire you, and I've seen your happy dance [on our security camera] so you can continue dancing."

To sum things up, it's been quite a year. Thank you, for inspiring us to see the pandemic of possibility stored in each of our hearts, and in each micro-moment where we choose love over fear.

Dutch flower farm sows seeds of resilience through a warm message while closed for the year.

Originally posted on ServiceSpace blog

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