Behind the Mask
Kindness — Illinois
"I don’t think we’re going to be sent home, it has barely even touched Chicago.” This was the last exchange a classmate and I had in our precalculus class during sixth period. As the story goes, just two short hours later it was as if the entire student body, which at my high school is roughly four thousand students, went into a domino-effect of murmurs and shocked glances. We had all just received a mass email announcing the school's order to shut down immediately and prepare for online learning. I remember getting into my car and thinking, “This is horrible. What about prom, Spring Break, or graduation? We finally got here and now we get nothing.” It’s funny, really, reflecting on what the past version of oneself thinks, says, or does, because little did I know that my “plans” for senior year were the absolute least of our world’s worries.
After about a week, it was like a zombie apocalypse had sprung into action. Running through our grocery store, I had picked up cases of water, hand sanitizer bottles, bags of chips, and food for our pets. As I slipped my way between various frantic faces, I could barely breathe under my mask. Bumping into people, some I had not seen since freshman year biology class, my neighbor, and even my best friend's parents, we all couldn’t help but feel like complete strangers. Feeling as though life could not get worse, we found ourselves trapped, like mice in a never-ending maze to the exit. Starting to panic, our nation was hopeless, defeated, angry, and scared.
Weeks passed and days were long. To further enhance our feelings of despair, one day we glanced up at the news to see the name “Ahmaud Arbery,” a man who was brutally murdered in Georgia. It was unbelievable; the country had almost quite literally shook off of its axis. In the midst of a global pandemic, our country found itself suffering from yet another outbreak: domestic terror. Now, I will not go into too much depth, as it would be hard not to have heard about the civil unrest.
We are still, upsettingly, nowhere near the place we should be at. There are deaths upon deaths, and still much more work to do on behalf of the societal problems in our nation. However, one thing I have realized, due to living and learning throughout this year is that mankind is sometimes extraordinarily kind. Even when we find ourselves in the gutter, we still somehow manage to see the faces of neighbors, strangers, or friends knocking on our door to give us an extra sanitizer bottle, dropping off groceries, or even showing up to a peaceful protest to show support for their loved ones' lives. Now, this is not the vaccine we need, or the re-evaluation of our country's policies, but this is exactly what we can do, and what we have learned to do. Even if hate and hurt have most definitely gotten worse, we still see the light of humanity shining through. This is something I have learned and deeply appreciate.
— Sophie, 18