By Akshara Karthik (’22)
Saying that this pandemic has taken a huge toll on our lives, would be THE understatement of the year. However, saying that this pandemic has brought the world closer than ever before? Truer words have never been told.
Lately, I have realized that much of my articles have been about celebrities and Hollywood style Pop Culture *cue the flashing lights*. This pandemic, however, has brought me to realize that Pop Culture isn’t all just about celebrities and glamour. Pop Culture is more than that. According to Simplicable, “Pop culture includes movies, music, sports, fiction, entertainment, celebrities, products, services, pastimes and ideas that become popular amongst a significant portion of a population such that they represent a shared experience.” Right now, our shared experience IS the global pandemic that is currently keeping us confined in our houses. The one thing that makes this current period of time different than prior times in our lives, is that celebrities aren’t the focus. The spotlight is on the volunteers and the frontline workers, who are sacrificing everything to keep us safe. That is why, for my last article for this school year, I wanted to talk about some everyday heroes that are positively impacting our local area and the world during unprecedented times.
Dana Potter, a food service worker at Mason Middle School in Waterford, is up before the sun rises to join her friends, other lunch ladies, and district employees to volunteer. Every weekday, standing six-feet and some lunch tables apart, the volunteers pack more than 700 meals for hungry families in the school district. Speaking to the Oakland County Press, Potter explained, “I’m overwhelmed by the support of every teacher, every school district employee…”You watch the community want to feed children and that’s what lunch ladies want to do. I’m watching my passion become their passion.” At 6 AM on every weekday, Potter is already at Mason Middle school, helping prep food stations. Potter aids in coordinating the feeding efforts each week, with two hundred meals going to a local church and another hundred being delivered to families with no means of transportation. Potter, featured by The Oakland County Press, also shared how she felt packing thousands of meals each week and how that has affected her as a person, “I think I just like feeding other people…You really just have to trust that you can get through things with the help of your friends and family. It’s not going to be easy, but knowing we have support at home and in the community makes all the difference.”
Christi Smarch, is the regional wellness director for five American House Senior Living Communities, which span across southeast Michigan, Ohio, and New Hampshire. Smarch has had a lifelong dream of becoming a nurse and after almost two decades of a career in finance, Smarch was able to take up the wellness director job at American House. This was done with the help of her partner, Misty, after working with memory and geriatrics. Smarch and Gomez are helping raise their young daughter, Gracelyn, and while Smarch has been explaining the science behind the virus and the need for social distancing, Gomez has been working on a children’s book, so kids can better understand the COVID-19 pandemic. Smarch explained to the Oakland County Press, “Our children are very hungry for knowledge. Just because we don’t have a firm understanding about everything, doesn’t mean we can’t give them the information we have. Information is power.” With that same idea in mind, Smarch decided to sign up to train other adults at American House, who might benefit from learning more about the pandemic. So far, according to the Oakland County Press, Smarch has traveled to “14 different senior living communities so far educating hundreds of housekeepers, chefs and other essential staff,” explaining how to use PPE (personal protective equipment) and American House’s new safety procedures. Smarch emphasized the reason why she is volunteering during these trying times, saying, “ ‘…I need to be able to go to bed at night knowing that I was there for those who needed me. If I do what I’m supposed to do, everyone will be okay.’ “
If we zoom out of the local aspect, Robert Wagner is a volunteer living in Wroclaw, Poland. Though much of the city is under lockdown, the city’s hospital and medical professionals are working non-stop to help those suffering from COVID-19. Wagner helps deliver energy drinks, lunch, coffee, and water to medical staff working long shifts. He explained to the World Economic Forum, “ ‘We are trying to support medical professionals, working a dozen or so hours a day to protect us against coronavirus.’ ” Also in Wroclaw, Joanna Cieslek runs a restaurant that had to close, along with the other restaurants and cafés in the city, due to the lockdown orders. However, she decided to cook meals for the at-risk residents in her area, including the elderly, the homeless, and the sick. Through crowdfunding, they are able to deliver meals without charging their customers. In Australia, Gleebooks, a bookstore, has been delivering books to those quarantining at home, in hopes of decreasing the mental health effects of the pandemic on people. Gleebooks has been using bicycles to deliver books to customer’s houses. “‘I think there’s a lot of anxiety. People are pretty uncertain so they’re just really grateful to still be able to access the things that give them joy, without having to leave the house,’ ” explains Nerida Ross, to the World Economic Forum, one of the store’s bicyclists.
Even though this quarantine may be tough to get through, we will emerge victorious. I wanted to say a heartfelt thanks to all the frontline workers and the volunteers who are helping those self-quarantining and the medical professionals. Risking your lives during this unprecedented time is not easy, and everyone applauds you for the work you are doing. Lastly, I would like to thank my readers! I really hope you enjoyed hearing about the relationships between Pop Culture and Society, so thank you for taking the time to read my column and The Overachiever 🙂