Staying apart but joining together: The rise of ‘caremongering’

Mar 20, 2020 | 4 comments |

With the rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, in only a few weeks life as we know it has changed almost beyond recognition—and in ways unprecedented in my lifetime—so we’re all adapting to a new normal.

Yet, as I stay apart from others (and social distancing is one of the many new expressions I’ve learned in recent days), I also see people joining together in ways that speak to the essential human goodness I try to capture through the characters and communities I write about.

Staying apart

Here in the Rideau Valley (and as part of a state of emergency in the Canadian province of Ontario), schools are closed, arts and sporting activities cancelled or postponed, libraries and museums are shut and many local business have temporarily had to close up shop.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FloppyEarsMarch2020-742x1024.jpgWhen I walk Floppy Ears, I wave and talk to others from a distance. Since my sociable hound can’t understand why we don’t visit as we usually would, much harness tugging and howling ensues when we spot a human or canine friend.

Sunday church is now a live stream via the church’s Facebook page, my ballet class has ceased due to the studio’s closure, and when I had to go to the bank this week, I used hand sanitizer (provided on a table near the door) no fewer than three times.

Tech Guy’s company has mandated that employees work from home for the foreseeable future and so together with English Rose, our little family is hunkered down for the ‘duration’—however long that may be.

As an introvert and writer, I’m used to being alone and work from home as a matter of course. However, having everyone else here, all the time, will take adjustment and necessitate a new routine, mutual accommodation and, in particular, a sense of humour.

Joining together

In this past week, though, and despite the anxiety we’re all feeling (amplified for me because English Rose has underlying medical conditions and Tech Guy’s mother is unwell in a care home), I’m heartened by how people and communities are joining together to support each other in new and important ways.

I’m now part of several Facebook groups that have been organized in my area to share practical tips, local business updates and to combat isolation through laughter and emotional support.

A local artist is offering free virtual art classes. There are numerous resources for parents who have been catapulted into home schooling whilst also trying to work from home. A coffee shop is offering free delivery to those who are housebound, and a grocery store now has an exclusive early opening for ‘senior shopping.’  

People able to do so have volunteered to shop for and help those in need, and my choir director has started an email check-in to share bits of news and keep us connected virtually when not in song.

Along with jokes and funny memes, as a community we’re getting through, hour by hour and day by day.

This kind of community caring is a phenomenon the BBC picked up on this week, describing it as ‘caremongering’—an antidote to the ‘scaremongering’ that often happens during crisis situations.

Not unique to Canada, ‘caremongering’ will make us all stronger once this crisis ends.

Counting my blessings and making do

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is BlitzSpirit-1024x764.jpg Not least, and while evoking that British ‘Blitz spirit’ I’ve read about and seen depicted in so many accounts of the Second World War, this time is also a chance for me to focus on what truly matters in life and be grateful for my many blessings.

Take good care, my friends, and from my home and family to you and yours, I send warm wishes for comfort, safety and good health as we navigate this anxious time together.

On a lighter note, although I did a bit of ‘panic borrowing’ before my local library closed, as a lifelong reader I’ve never been more grateful for my well-stocked bookshelves, both physical and electronic.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is BookshelvesMarch2020-1024x768.jpg

Sheltering in isolation is one thing, but without books to take me to other places in my imagination? Unthinkable!

And when I’m not reading (and writing), I’m doing ballet pliés holding onto the kitchen counter and singing as I wash my hands!





  1. Heidi Vanstone

    These are indeed unprecedented times! I think, though, that in the midst of all this social distancing and self-isolating, it’s important (more than ever) to be kind to others, to smile and to count even the smallest blessings. This, too, shall pass. My hope is that all people, everywhere, will remember our common humanity, and be inspired to “care-monger” instead of hoarding and being exclusively self-focused.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Heidi. I appreciate your thoughtful comment and yes, especially at this time, kindness matters more than ever.

      Thinking of you and yours at this difficult time and hoping all is well.

  2. Susanna Bavin

    What strange and unsettling times we live in. I must admit to having panic-requested at the library, but now I’m wondering how long my stash of library books will last. Not nearly long enough, I’m sure. Soon it will be time to start choosing old favourites from the bookcases in the living room.

    I have been heartened by tales of kindness and cheered by the imagination that has gone into setting up the online choirs, craft lessons etc. This is a time for us all to support one another. Sending very warmest wishes to you and the family.

    • Jen Gilroy

      I wish you happy reading ‘memories,’ Susanna. I’m also ‘choosing old favourites’ from my bookcases. At this time of stress and uncertainty, I’m finding comfort in returning to books I’ve enjoyed many times before.

      Thanks for your warm wishes. Sending the same to you in return from across the sea.


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