Random acts of kindness in face of coronavirus menace

QUEENSLANDERS are committing random acts of kindness in the face of the coronavirus menace and the phenomenon is catching on.

In the wake of the devastating 2011 floods, the legendary "Mud Army" movement was spawned and thousands of people spontaneously mopped up strangers homes and helped clean out backyards across Brisbane and Ipswich.

Now viral angels willing to donate groceries, pay forward the price of a coffee, volunteer to do the shopping for neighbours they barely know, and to put others' needs before their own are in the ascendancy.

And while footage of brawls in supermarket grocery aisles over stacks of toilet paper rolls have dragged Australia's "fair-go" reputation through the mud, an unstoppable outbreak of neighbourly love could yet go viral.


Lucille Kluster and Elli McCormick share a laugh over the fence. Picture: Sarah Marshall
Lucille Kluster and Elli McCormick share a laugh over the fence. Picture: Sarah Marshall




It was a beautiful act of kindness amid an uncertain and trying time that united these Brisbane neighbours in what is sure to be a friendship to last a lifetime.

The McCormick family have lived across the road from their elderly neighbour Lucille Kluster for 13 years, however, up until the COVID-19 pandemic, they had barely spoken.


All that changed last week, when Elli, Jamie and their two young children, six-year-old Rumi and four-year-old Fern, sent their 78-year-old neighbour a letter to remind her she isn't alone.

"I wanted to make sure she was okay and had everything she needed," Mrs McCormick said.

"I thought that if I was her, I wouldn't want to go out at all. I know she's there and lives on her own."

The letter from the McCormick family.
The letter from the McCormick family.

Mrs McCormick said it was a conversation with a family member that compelled her to reach out.

"I was talking to my brother-in-law about when the Spanish flu was in America and how there's a lot of shame about what people did then, which was close their door and not help people out. So that sort of made me think, 'oh I really could just leave a note'."

The touching act, according to Mrs Kluster, has restored her faith in humanity.

"On a positive note, COVID-19 can bring neighbours together," Mrs Kluster said.

"That's really important and comforting for older people living alone."

Mrs Kluster, who said she was so far self-sufficient with a freezer full of food, had not yet taken her neighbours up on their kind offer, but said the gesture will not be forgotten.

"The beauty of that letter is that it really has brought us together," she said.

"Even though Elli didn't know me and knew nothing about my life, she still contacted me and wanted to help. It's one positive to come out of COVID-19 and it brought a little comfort to me at an uncertain time."





Gabriel Oriti, manager at Bracken Ridge's IRT The Ridge retirement village said that on four occasions in the past week people had dropped off groceries - including high-demand items like toilet paper.

"We tried to get their details just so we could acknowledge them and they have said 'it's all fine - I wouldn't want my Nanna or Pop to be in a bother and I thought people in your village would could be in a similar situation'."

Mr Oriti said each time that it happened was a "wow" moment.

"It was the most uplifting and inspiring sense of generosity," she said.

"This is what this country is all about. It has been very touching."

Redcliffe resident Beverely Rilatt-Richardson has been on the receiving end of these random acts of kindness.

The 76-year-old was at the checkout at Aldi in Kippa-Ring when her EFTPOS card was repeatedly declined.

"I probably looked a bit frazzled," she said.

"A couple, in their late 30s, came up flashing their card and said 'it's OK - we'll pay for it'. They had no idea how much it was. It was over $30.

"I looked at them in astonishment, said 'thank you so much, that is amazing. I don't know how to repay you'.

"They just said 'no problem, when you can, pay it forward'."





Kate Whittle is one of many Queenslanders dropping notices in letterboxes offering to support neighbours in need. She and her friends dropped off about 60 letters last week.

"I was worried about high-risk people who live in our neighbourhood," she said. "We live near an aged-care facility and community housing - both vulnerable groups.

"There is also a strong sense of community where I live, and we always try to give back wherever we can.

"I was also perturbed by some of the behaviour with respect to hoarding and fights breaking out in supermarkets. I want us to rise to this occasion and respond to our humanity - as opposed to fear."

Dr Catherine Barrett, director of Celebrate Ageing, which combats ageism, set up the Facebook page "The Kindness Pandemic" in response to panicked people behaving poorly.

"One of my friends had been at the supermarket and the staff had scratches and bruises on their arms," Dr Barrett said. "She asked them what had happened and they said they had been attacked by customers. It was a pretty telling turning point.

"Surely we were better than this? Surely we can be kind to each other? And I thought what we needed was to have a focus on kindness."

The page now boasts more than 129,000 members who share stories of how they have helped someone else.

HIT105 radio station digital producer Michael Parente created the Brisbane Helping Brisbane Facebook page.

"We had one member from Runcorn mention that they were unable to leave their house due to medical conditions and within 10 minutes, another member had kindly offered to fetch them the groceries they needed," he said. "We knew that Brisbane was filled with compassion - but even still, the amount of people who have eagerly joined has blown us away."


Father Gary Harch at Kangaroo Point’s Saint Mary's Anglican Church. Picture: Richard Walker
Father Gary Harch at Kangaroo Point’s Saint Mary's Anglican Church. Picture: Richard Walker




Church services may be cancelled, but parishioners are still striving to give to those in need.

The last worship services to be conducted at Kangaroo Point's St Mary's Anglican Church for some time will be led this morning by Father Gary Harch. He is thinking of marking Easter as soon as the Diocese-wide embargo on parish gatherings is lifted.

"Of course, that might be a bit difficult if that is on Christmas Day," Fr Gary quipped.

He said while parishioners could not come to St Mary's itself, they could still donate to the parish pantry.

"The homeless need our help more than ever," he said.



Willow Coffee shop owners Sheree Knight and Megan Fellowes have set up a community pantry to help those in need. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Willow Coffee shop owners Sheree Knight and Megan Fellowes have set up a community pantry to help those in need. Picture: Jamie Hanson



Businesses have also joined in the spirit of kindness.

At the Hamlet on Charltoncoffee shop at Ascot, on Brisbane's northside, Lauren Jordan has started baking mini-muffins for customers to deliver to elderly neighbours.

"The idea came to me when I was making our big muffins," Ms Jordan said.

"I had some spare mix so I thought it would be a good idea. We only had two packets on Friday but they both went, I'm making another four so we'll see how they go."

At Willow Coffee in Brighton, owners Sheree Knight and Megan Fellowes have set up a community pantry.

"Customers were coming in to check on us and we were hearing the stories about them not being able to get to the shops or by the time they got there nothing was left," Ms Knight said.

"We thought, why not give something back to our community? We started with 10 items that Megan and I supplied and now we have two full benches of supplies that are available for anyone who cannot get those essential items or are running low."

Director of Soul Song Choirs Jacqueline Larsen has taken her community choir online to ensure her community of singers stays connected.

Over four weeks - through live streamed rehearsals, interactive video rehearsals, prerecorded teaching videos, and access to online community forums and chat groups as well as singing and performance tips - members will learn to sing up to four pop songs.

They then will have the chance to submit a video of themselves singing to be included in a virtual mass choir.

"After the four week project is up, if we are still having to practice social distancing, then we will run into another four-week program with four new songs. We will continue with new programs every four weeks for as long as people want to sing," Mr Larsen said.

The program costs $40 and already there has been interest expressions of interest from more than 500 people from across Australia and beyond - including the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, Qatar, New Zealand, Thailand and South Africa.

"Time off from the fear or uncertainty of the future should not be underestimated right now," she said.

"With a tag line of Just Keep Singing, the Viral Choir will give members a few hours a week where they can put aside everything else, and belt out some joyous tunes in the virtual company of a bunch of other people."

Originally published as Random acts of kindness in face of coronavirus menace

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