No Hugging? No Touching? Hang Signs To Show Where Hearts Are

Last fall, red paper hearts began appearing in windows of houses in my neighborhood, until nearly half the homes in my tidy tree-lined enclave sported them.

Nancy George. (Photo: Hillsman Jackson)
Nancy George. (Photo: Hillsman Jackson)

Initially, I thought the hearts were part of a school project, but I learned the hearts represented something much more serious.

They were a way of showing love to a family who lost a toddler to an illness that unexpectedly took his life.

The red hearts continue to adorn the windows, but they bring support to many of us who don’t know this family. They remind us of the value of community, the importance of pulling together in tragedy, and they serve as a visible sign that we live among neighbors who care for one another.

One of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we can’t gather to support one another. Our government, scientists, employers, and adult kids tell us we have to stay home. No grandchildren relief for Boomers like me.

We’ll be reminded that, in a crisis much bigger than ourselves, a small gesture of support – well – it warms the heart.

Remember when neighborly acts provided the inspiration that pulled us through countless other small and large disasters? Many years ago, the bus transporting my seventh-grade son home to Texas from a Colorado church camp, broke down in Des Moines, New Mexico. Unlike its Iowa cousin, this New Mexico town was so small, the name of the restaurant was “Restaurant,” my son told me.

When 60 teenagers descended on this tiny village, population 117 in 2019, the Restaurant, which had closed for the day, reopened to serve them. While the school principal unlocked the door to the high school gym to provide a place for the students to sleep, his wife drove 60 miles to the nearest grocery store where she could buy enough bread to make sandwiches for the stranded travelers, probably surprising later shoppers who arrived there to find the shelves stripped.

Today, those kids probably remember the kindness of the residents of Des Moines, New Mexico, more than the lessons of the Colorado camp.

Let’s give our kids something positive to remember when they think about this strange and scary time. I can’t stand on my front steps and sing Italian opera arias. I could put up Christmas lights, but I just took them down.

How about cutting hearts from paper (or buying them from Home Depot) and taping them in our windows? They’ll cheer neighborhood walkers who have emerged during this crisis like prairie dogs after winter hibernation. Mail carriers, food deliverers, first responders, and medical workers driving to and from work will see them.

We’ll be reminded that, in a crisis much bigger than ourselves, a small gesture of support – well – it warms the heart. And, years from now, when we look back at this time, we’ll remember the paper hearts, a tiny gesture that brought us together.

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Nancy George

Nancy Lowell George is associate director of media relations at SMU Dallas.

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