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Five positive things to happen to Canberra since COVID-19

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Each afternoon, before the sun sets, I pop on my sneakers and head out for a long walk around my neighbourhood. And suddenly, I’m seeing things I’ve never seen before.

Streets that were once quiet are now alive with kids climbing trees, running through backyards, drawing rainbow hearts with chalk on the driveways, making friends with their next-door neighbours that they hadn’t yet met properly.

Parents taking their kids for a walk smile as I walk past—not the customary polite grimace I’m used to, but a warm, understanding one that says “we’re in this together”.

Teddy bears peer down at me from verandahs, signs reading “love and hope” are now plastered on windows.

In amongst the tragedy of what is happening, I’ve been thinking of the little positives that are coming out of all of this for our city. Because even during tragedy, you need to cling onto something, anything, good to get by. And there are some little wins—if you look close enough.

People are getting active and outdoors more than ever before

Sunshine and fresh air have never been more appreciated. With gyms closed, people are finding new ways to get active and Canberra’s good weather and open spaces has provided it in spades.

Lakes, walking trails and nature reserves have temporarily replaced shopping centres, movie theatres and kids activity centres. Kids are off the iPads and onto the scooters, bikes and skateboards.

On a clear day, I’ve never seen Lake Burley Griffin so busy. It feels as if we are having a total ‘reset’ on life and how we were living it. By working remotely, we are lessening our carbon footprint, so without all those cars on the road the air is clearer and cleaner.

Streets have been brought together 

Whether it’s reports of little presents of toilet paper on doorsteps or supportive notes in windows, our streets are more connected than ever.

Neighbours I hadn’t seen much of are now coming by checking on each other, while others have pitched in to do the grocery shopping for elderly residents on the street. Instead of getting carted around to parties or indoor play dates on weekends, kids are having to use their imaginations more, exploring their neighbourhoods or backyards.

We may be in isolation but strangely, it feels as though we’re closer than ever.

We’re digging deep

Despite the financial situation looking grim—10 per cent of Canberrans now out of work due to the pandemic—locals are reaching into their hip pockets to help out our struggling small businesses.

Whether it’s buying a friend a bunch of flowers from their local florist or booking an advance session from a photographer unable to trade due to restrictions, Canberrans have dug deep to support their local business in whatever way they can.

“What this pandemic has highlighted is that Canberrans are just an amazing bunch of very caring people,” says Shalini Sree, owner of Cuppalini Cakes. “I’ve seen the difficult times bring out the best in people. We’ve been inundated with requests in the form of care boxes sent to others – mostly just to let them know they are cared for. It really warms my heart every time.”

We’ll be more appreciative than ever before

After homeschooling for almost two terms, I don’t think any Canberra parent can say they aren’t more appreciative of their child’s teacher and the work they do.

Then there are those at the frontline—nurses, doctors and other hospital staff who each day continue to uniform-up and help look after those battling the virus. I’ve heard stories of nurses in uniform getting shouted coffees or flowers as a token of appreciation and well, that’s just wonderful.

After this is all over, we’ll be more appreciative of those things we usually just “did” without thinking. Things like grabbing a coffee and actually sitting at a table, seeing a movie, heading out to dinner or drinks, working out at the gym or going to the library will surely never be taken for granted again.

We’ve been forced to slow down

Before the virus, my phone and diary were often clogged with events, catch-ups or “must-do” errands.

While I loved catching up with people, I often felt burnt out after the weekend, dragging the kids from place to place or worrying about trying to schedule babysitting. Getting up each morning and having a completely blank schedule can be quite liberating.

More than anything, this has made me proud of our city in wholeheartedly embracing social distancing measures to help flatten the curve.

The world was so very fast before, now I feel slowly my mind is becoming uncluttered and I’m focusing on what really matters—health, family, love—and all the rest can wait a little while longer. As we move into relaxed restrictions, I hope we don’t lose sight of what is important and appreciate our beautiful city just that little bit more.

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