• Gabrielle Wong

Not Cancelled: Neighbors

In mid-March, so much of life felt like it came to a screeching halt in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. As a society, so many things have changed. For Care Fresno, after school programs ceased with the Fresno shelter-in-place order, as did our Mission Care classes, though both later resumed via Zoom. While we were suddenly no longer running a physical program in our neighborhood, my roommate and I continued to physically live in our apartment at a Care Fresno program site.

I have been working from home and spending more time at my apartment under the shelter in place ordinance. I’ve been in my apartment during times when other activities would previously have had me elsewhere. I’ve been able to listen to the birds, observe my neighbors, and literally and metaphorically smell the flowers. I’ve taken more walks around my neighborhood and talked with my neighbors who are also out. My pace of life has allowed me to slow down and focus on those around me instead of the next thing on my agenda.

This is a confusing time, with conflicting information, constant updates, and frequent changes to what people should or shouldn’t do. In the midst of social distancing, should I hug one of my kids who’s crying or an eager kid running up to me with a mask on? I’m no longer sure what is acceptable - not just based on what the government or health officials say but based on my neighbors and families’ levels of comfort, and my own comfort levels are also in flux.

My roommate and I have brought food, fruit, and books to the homes of families we know. We’ve been able to regularly check in with our neighbors to see how they’re doing, provide conversation, and listen to them share how the coronavirus is affecting them. Some families are excited to have social interactions and some are nervous and want to keep the conversations short, with one putting on a mask or gloves before opening the door. Through all of this, we continue to do life alongside our neighbors, sheltered in place in the same complex as them, navigating this season together. To be sure, the coronavirus is affecting me differently than it is my neighbors, but I view this time as an opportunity for me to show that I am still present and care in the midst of other areas of uncertainty. Though the methods may change, being a good neighbor should never be cancelled.

In a way, this is what Care Fresno prepares its Mission Care Residents for: living in community and loving neighbors beyond the parameters of any given program, because it’s about building relationships, not running programs. Hopefully, each of us emerge from this shelter in place a little better at loving our neighbors.