Joze Sola waves through a window to his 70-year-old mother, who lives at a senior citizens center in North Austin, Texas, on March 22, 2020.JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN/USA TODAY NETWORK
►Medium Rare, a restaurant in Washington, D.C., is delivering free meals to seniors in self-quarantine. In Louisville, Kentucky, a new nonprofit, the COVID-19 Match program, pairs healthy adults with the elderly to help them during the crisis.
►As restaurants across the country close their dining rooms, customers have stepped up to help workers who’ve lost hours and income. Numerous crowd-sourced relief funds have been set up to help food service workers pay their bills. And stories continue to pop up about diners leaving extraordinary tips — such as the couple in Houston who left $9,400 for one restaurant’s kitchen and service staff.
►In Indianapolis, Colts owner Jim Irsay pledged $1 million for a local food bank, which already has seen a surge in demand from hungry and suddenly out-of-work Americans. Irsay also challenged Central Indiana residents to a $200,000 match. In less than 24 hours, they not only met the challenge but gave nearly $100,000 more.
Medical professionals honored
►Individuals and organizations are also making life a bit easier for medical professionals who’ve been called to make extraordinary personal sacrifices in this pandemic. The owner of Bellman Oil Co. in Bremen, Indiana, is offering free gasoline to medical personnel. Sweetgreen, a fast casual restaurant with locations across the country, is serving free meals to health care workers.
These examples — and there are many, many more — highlight an important facet of what makes us Americans: We rise to the occasion and meet the needs of our fellow citizens, a tendency that Alexis de Tocqueville praised in 1835 as the “spirit of association” that made America exceptional.
Small acts add up to major service
Because the crisis is evolving so rapidly, we can’t rely only on government actions to mitigate the damage. Civilization is held together by the small, cumulative decisions people make to help their fellow citizens. Alone, such actions may seem minor. In the aggregate, they make an enormous difference.
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Philosopher Adam Smith distinguished between justice and beneficence. Justice is the bare minimum we owe to others, an obligation to do no harm. Today, this means staying home during the quarantine and not potentially infecting others.
But justice is about mere survival. To flourish, we need beneficence — the obligation we have to do good for others.
It is a tumultuous time, but we should recognize and celebrate our vibrant ecosystem of civic dynamism that is dedicated to promoting the common good.