The sun dresses have multiplied, the city’s mood has brightened as colour seeps, albeit gradually, back into the city’s cheeks. In the mellow mood of folks at outdoor tables and the friendly conversations in the shops, you see the happy tide we made coming in.
Were there times when some of us were tempted to lose our grace and slide into that corner where every setback was a weapon? Look, maybe for a second, but surely part of the glow that’s building now lies in the fact that, barring the attention crew, most chose not to sink.
In the mellow mood of folks at outdoor tables and the friendly conversations in the shops, you see the happy tide we made coming in.
It’s funny how, looking back at our life-changing event, what remains so brightly is Melbourne’s basic good.
We are the home of Dr Catherine Barrett, who saw a need to help her fellow Victorians during lockdown number one and started a Facebook page called #TheKindnessPandemic that spawned countless acts of generosity and a sense of consolation for more than 500,000 people who got onto it in just two weeks.
A network of 60 suburban branches followed, giving good-hearted people in their tens of thousands the chance to support locals around them, and they did. The group is currently crowd-sourcing material for its Hope Calendar for 2021.
And Melbourne made Dr Louise Parry, founder of The Scrubs Co-op page, which set out to find seamstresses and seamsters to help make up the shortfall of protective clothing for front line healthcare workers. It drew 900 people.
Don’t forget 20 year-old student Alex Decker, who had a frantic doctor-sister and decided to reach out to Melbourne’s young people to help make food for health workers, stranded students and others. They’d pumped out and delivered more than 50,000 meals by August.
People left bears in their windows for kids to “hunt”, made rainbow trails on the footpaths, left cooking tools dressed as people poked into their naturestrips in crazy “spoonville” displays.
Sikh volunteers, who had started giving away free meals in bushfire hit areas in January, made 126,000 meals in 248 days for those in need; Dani Valent, a Melbourne food writer (who’d lost work herself), conjured up a professional army to feed the city’s stranded temporary visa holders and made fortune cookies bearing messages of hope.
Graduating school kids who’d missed out on so much got care packages from strangers; nurses were welcomed to live in strangers’ houses free of charge. Primary school kids filled the walls the of people they didn’t know in aged care homes with loving messages in living colour.
Sure there was the (ahem) toilet paper … but when part of our community was caged in housing towers, so many went to give things and help that many were sent home.
We saw – in what we did, and in what we refrained from – the depth and breadth of our soul-saving goodwill. We showed each other and ourselves that compassion and open hearts in multi-national Melbourne run as real in the city’s deep veins as the brown in the river.
What is there not to love about being among all of the goodness binding us together, even as some big-heads try to rip us apart?
As we venture out again in sunnies, thongs and smiles, we are chastened but composed. We know now what we are a part of, and surely we are grateful for it. As a city, Melbourne may be pretty but its real charm is us.
Wendy Tuohy is a Sunday Age senior writer. Follow her on Twitter at @wtuohy
Wendy Tuohy is a Sunday Age senior writer.