I was five minutes deep into one of those overly sentimental click-bait videos of people finding out they were going to be grandparents for the first time before I realized a couple of things.
I was inexplicably weepy; I don’t even have kids, and I was happy for these strangers.
Also, I’d been doing a lot of this lately — going out of my way to do a little less doomscrolling and a little more … I guess we’ll call it joyscrolling?
Look who had a baby!
Wow, a new book … or job … or house — and in the middle of a pandemic! Good for them!
Aww, look at that proud grandpa.
Some might call it procrastination, or denial. I call it a necessary respite from all the bad news and tweets and posts about how much we’ve lost, a moment to find a little joy in someone else’s win, big or small.
How else to explain (other than desperation for casual conversation with strangers) shouting out my window the other day to a lost-looking Amazon delivery guy holding a package?
“You there! What address are you looking for?” (I didn’t say exactly that, but close enough.)
When he emerged from the direction I sent him, empty-handed and victorious, you better believe I gave him my best window woo-hoo!
In that brief interaction, his win was my win was our win, Universe. Chalk one up for the good guys.
So when a well-timed email popped into my inbox asking if I had any interest in talking to students who were graduating, mid-pandemic, from an EMT training course — something I might have passed on any other day — I thought, sure, why not?
The free program for Philadelphia residents is a partnership of the Philadelphia Fire Department, District 1199C, and a few workforce programs, including Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC) Philly, Philadelphia Works, and United Way.
Like everything else in 2020, the coronavirus interrupted in-person classes for a while, meaning usually hands-on instruction had to go remote and creative.
Grab a doll or a teddy bear or a broomstick, if you have to, coached their instructor, Lt. JaNét Pearson, a Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic, when it was time to practice first-aid skills.
Bashira Sherrod, 26, turned to her mom — “a cranky patient,” she joked, and her sister.
William Terrell, 47, who had been laid off from his insurance job before joining the program, turned to his accommodating 6-year-old daughter and his enthusiastic 12-year-old son.
“They went along,” he recalled, laughing. “It was fun because I also was able to explain to them what I was doing and they were able to see why I was up late at night and up early in the morning studying.”
The program started with about 20 students, but 10 finished.
They will take their Nationally Registered EMT (NREMT) exams soon, but on Tuesday afternoon there was a small, socially distant graduation at the Breslin Learning Center on Broad Street.
Unlike her Kutztown University graduation, Sherrod couldn’t have her family there, but she was still surrounded by proud supporters.
“Not only did they get through the curriculum, but they got through the life circumstances that came up during COVID,” said Philadelphia Fire Capt. Cecilia Ortiz, who gave a special shout-out to instructors-turned-advocates. “Whatever they had to get through, whether it was financial or child care, they did it.”
Look, we can’t turn away from all the bad news. We shouldn’t. There’s too much at stake to look away and hope for the best. We have to face the frightening reality of this wild world of ours and do all we can to make it better.
But every once in a while, we need to hit pause on the bad and celebrate the good wherever we can find it.
It can feel weird, even wrong, when we’re neck deep in collective grief and fear, and if we’re being honest, depression.
But it’s necessary — if for no other reason than to remind ourselves of what we’re fighting so hard for.