Written by Maggie Carey ’22
It was mid-afternoon on a sunny day when I heard the excited shouts of children in the neighbors’ yard. From my bedroom window, I could see parents hugging one another and chatting as their kids started a spirited game of freeze-tag. It was as pure and picturesque as a party could be – except for the crushing reality that we were in the middle of a pandemic.
Schools had already closed due to COVID-19, and the importance of physical distancing was being emphasized every evening on local and national news. I wondered how my neighbors could possibly justify their choice to host a large gathering when it may put their lives and the lives of their young children at risk. However, I quickly realized that my frustration and judgement would not be of any utility. Instead, I resolved to educate and empower families in my neighborhood to follow physical distancing guidelines.
Clearly, the message to “stay home, stay safe” hadn’t quite gotten through to many members of my community, and rather than continuing to recite the same rule, I decided to take a new approach. I created activity packets for all of the children in the neighborhood, with an invitation to join our community’s own “Coronavirus Superhero Team.” To achieve superhero status, kids only needed to wash their hands regularly with soap and water, stay at home and enjoy time with their family instead of seeing their friends for a little while, eat the healthy foods available to them, and try to get enough sleep. With this team invitation and challenge came a set of coloring pages, a small box of crayons, and a sheet full of fun stickers.
Although simple, this approach was multifaceted. It allowed me to provide a gentle yet critical reminder to families in my community about the importance of physical distancing. It also created a fun diversion for children who might be feeling bored, confused, or frightened as a result of the sudden and drastic changes to their daily lives. With children engaged in an independent activity, parents might also find a few precious moments to work, catch up on household maintenance, or simply relax.
In this unprecedented time, I have learned that a little creativity can go a long way to promoting public health. Even during times of uncertainty and fear, and no matter what our age, we all have the power to be superheroes.