What happens when there is a raging pandemic and yet Thanksgiving is around the corner? Many families are torn between celebrating the holidays with family and friends, and keeping the same loved ones safe.
Recognizing the real dilemma faced by millions across the country, and specifically her students at the University of Iowa, lecturer Liz Pearce decided to reach out with a message fit for the holidays: to be kind and spread cheer, while respecting health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Pearce wanted college kids to know that she cared, and in this extremely troubled world, her words of positivity immediately went viral.
She said, “I sent out a message to the students saying that I know it’s been a hard semester and some students, I heard, couldn’t go home and I didn’t want anyone to feel sad or lonely on Thanksgiving.”
In her email, Pearce offered to make extra portions of her own Thanksgiving meal, and bring food to students who had to be alone on Thanksgiving or away from family due to the pandemic.
Pearce not only posted the menu, she even offered a vegan option! This act of compassion sent a very touching message – to be kind to others in this uncertain and difficult time.
One of her students immediately posted the message on Twitter. Pearce doesn’t use the platform, but her students do, and her note spread like wildfire.
Student Leah Blask said, “I thought it was so cute. I sent it to my friend group. She’s so wholesome.” Blask’s roughly 1,000 followers were happy to comment and post on her Twitter feed, and soon enough the note reached more than half a million people.
Obviously, Pearce’s reminder to be kind to others struck a chord with millions having to deal with a world beset by COVID. Blask said, “So many people who read it said it brought a tear to their eye and it made me realize just how vulnerable, maybe as a nation, we are right now.”
She added, “At the University of Iowa we have people who are in quarantine and isolation in their dorms and apartments.”
It’s a reality that Pearce completely understands. Her life has been personally impacted by the pandemic, as one of her four children has tested positive for the virus, and won’t be able to join the family on Thanksgiving. She also has a student currently in the hospital, and three others who have lost family members to the virus.
Blask herself is all too aware of the isolation brought upon by a positive test, which is why she chose to be kind as well. “That feeling of being alone, in my apartment, and my roommates have to leave. I was there by myself,” she said.
Pearce shared, “There’s a lot of students who’ve been sick and I think that’s been really hard to listen to their stories, especially when they’re sick they’re usually contacting me saying, ‘please, will you accept my work late?’ And I say, ‘Oh my gosh that should be the least of your worries.’ The main thing is to get well.”
Three students have since accepted Pearce’s offer of a delivered Thanksgiving meal. Hundreds more followed her example to be kind and have offered to help. The response has been heartwarming.
Pearce said, “My act wasn’t a huge act or anything and yet it solicited an incredible response and made me realize maybe we’re not used to kindness anymore.”
Blask added, “To bring that plate to your table or your porch, and make that effort to connect with you even though they can’t hold your hand and be with you. That’s why I think Professor Pearce’s tweet resonated with so many people, because of that little glimmer of hope and humanity in people.”
These days are certainly challenging, as families wrestle between continuing Thanksgiving traditions, missing out on the holiday altogether, or having Thanksgiving dinner while grieving the loss of loved ones. Thanksgiving 2020 will certainly be different.
Pearce believes her message touched so many people because, “It was a little ray of sunshine in such a dark time.” And that’s exactly what the world needs right now, simple acts of kindness to help others go beyond the pandemic.