By Dani Sharp
With the dark cloud of COVID-19 and social isolation restrictions currently segregating communities, one Sunshine Coast Facebook group has made lifting the public’s spirit a top priority.
The page is driven solely by residents of the Sunshine Coast sharing stories of the good deeds they have fulfilled or the random generosities they have received, highlighting the positive impact of kindness on others.
Nadine Whittome was struggling to make ends meet in the “horrendous” initial weeks of the pandemic.
The single mother-of-three said she had no money for rent, no internet to home-school her three children and was at the end of her tether.
Hoping for a quick treat amid the week’s madness, she reached out to a community group asking to swap a bottle of wine with someone, as the one she had been gifted had a preservative that would make her sick.
Natalie Green, a recent acquaintance of Ms Whittome, answered the call and drove the wine over, refusing to take anything in return.
Upon opening the two bottles of wine, Ms Whittome also found a $50 visa gift card with instructions to “get something nice for you and the girls”.
Ms Whittome said she burst into tears at the unexpected generosity of the gift and was able to buy nuts, Easter chocolate and other items which have become a luxury for her family.
“You don’t know the power of your actions,” Ms Whittome said.
“It might seem so small and insignificant to you, but if it’s done with kindness and genuine intentions, you just don’t know how much of a difference it could make in somebody’s eyes.”
Ms Whittome said this act, which she later posted on the Sunshine Coast Kindness Pandemic, has taught her family something extraordinary.
“That’s the power of true giving,” she said.
“You don’t do it for reward or recognition, you do it because you can make a difference.”
Since sharing her story, Ms Whittome has also received offers to pay for internet or assist in other areas.
Sunshine Coast Kindness Pandemic founder and page admin Lisa Lorna Blair said she knew the page would take-off.
“I just thought people here are so kind and it’s just the perfect place,” Mrs Blair said.
The former newspaper and radio journalist also said news and community groups were becoming ever-more influential due to current coronavirus restrictions.
“The media and social media are playing a huge role in this because, at the moment, everybody’s confined to home and so they’re relying on electronic information, so let’s try and create as much positive electronic information as we can,” Mrs Blair said.
“We are getting bombarded with so much and, unfortunately, a lot of it is very skewed and very negative and so there’s a lot of fear for people.
“And so, I think at this time, it is so important to have opportunities to show the good that can come out of this situation.”
Mrs Blair said sites like The Kindness Pandemic gave her the power to choose between focussing on the positivity in the world rather than all the negative stories online.
“The first week, when everything started to close in on us all and it was, everybody was ‘doom and gloom’ – I was feeling that too,” she said.
“And I think that’s the key thing for people: we get to pick and choose, we don’t have to saturate ourselves with mainstream media and the latest stats.”
Despite everything her family has gone through, with groups like the Sunshine Coast Kindness Pandemic, Ms Whittome doesn’t feel alone.
“I know that we’re cared for, I know that we matter, and my girls know that they matter,” she said.
“And when you don’t have family here, it is important to know that your community is your family.”
Tanawha Care operations manager Blaze Rice, 27, said while she used to be more of an animal person, it was movements like these that show her how much people really care.
“You see so much bad in the world and you see so many people be selfish around now, too,” Mrs Rice said.
“I didn’t really think that many people could be that giving and nice and come together … that definitely makes me like people again.”
When Mrs Rice heard her local GP was putting together a pantry for people in need, she was one of the first to offer help.
The team delivers care packages to a range of people, including the elderly, homeless, those with disabilities, families struggling through a loss of income or anyone in the health workforce, and even provide weekly grocery shops for those who cannot make it out.
Their care packages contain pasta, water, canned food, hygiene products and other non-perishable essential items.
“Somebody gets in touch with us and says ‘I’m struggling, is it possible to help?’ and we get things together that they might need,” Mrs Rice said.
However, not every person in need is able to ask for help.
“As a lot of people are, you know, they’re ashamed to ask, but you can tell [they] need food,” she said.