Kindness is contagious
GET in early, push, shove and elbow in.
In the last days of March this year, that’s the way many Australians beat their neighbours to toilet paper, sanitiser, rice and pasta.
When the supermarket shelves emptied, underground chats shared the names of newly stocked-up supermarkets, but they too emptied quickly. Finally, for those not up for the physical challenge of crowds and competition, the supermarket offered specific shopping hours.
Panic buying is a survival mechanism linked to selfpreservation, says psychiatrist and author Mark Cross, “when the individual becomes more important than the community”.
In the uncharted world of COVID-19, for many Australians, panic buying was a first response, a behaviour brought about through existential anxiety.
But, 55-year-old Dr Cross, a man who publicly shares details of his life lived with serious anxiety attacks yet speaks out with candour, humour and authority, there is a flip side to this behaviour and it’s very positive.
“The community has reached out to support each other,” he said.
Queensland’s Care Army, which has enlisted people able to check in on the elderly and vulnerable during lockdown, is an example of giving support and saving lives.
But, Dr Cross notes there have been individual examples across the country.
“Neighbour has gone to neighbour to share and shop,” he said.
“Social media seems to be kinder too, there’s a sense of humour; just look at the memes.
“I’m so proud to be Australian,” the former South African said.
“The way we have embraced each other is the Aussie spirit of mateship.”
Brisbane cafe owner Britt Ayling said she was a recipient of the goodwill.
She has owned her New Farm Cafe GROUND for two and a half years, gaining a reputation for serving great coffee and a warm smile.
In the early days of the virus, her custom-made outdoor chalkboard was stolen. Ms Ayling flipped the situation, by installing a board that quickly filled with “pay it forward” notes. The community generously gave and the recipients appreciated their free cup of coffee.
And there are other acts of random kindness
“When I mentioned I was finding it hard to get flour, a customer brought some in,” she said.
As the supermarket shelves have refilled, others have become empty.
Rather than panic buying, there is rush on a new range of items, with an intergenerational flavour.
Because of all the footpath art, chalk can be in short supply. The art often drawn by children has brought a hearty response from admiring grandparents. A rush of home baking has meant a shortage of baking dishes and ingredients, but it has also meant a sharing of recipes between young and old, and bicycle stores report business is booming, for every age group.
GENEROSITY: Britt Ayling shows GROUND Cafe's pay-it-forward coffee wall.
Mark Cross is proud of how Australians have embraced each other during the pandemic.