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CASSANDRA JENKINS — Virus forces physical distance, but brings hearts closer together

The best moments in life are often accompanied by extravagant celebrations.

Birthdays, engagements, graduations and holidays are all parties of life meant to celebrate and cement memories with friends, families and loved ones.

Since COVID-19’s devastating effects hit our nation nearly two months ago, the celebrations look a little different. Gone are the tight hugs, the handshakes, the kisses and embraces, but what remains is so much more than physical affection.

While the virus may separate us by six feet, it is doing something even more unpredictable, bringing our hearts and minds closer and stronger together.

Something meant to tear all of us apart is somehow doing the exact opposite.

Young kids are seeing complete strangers drive by and wave, honking their horns wildly to honor a birthday.

Parents are seeing more of their children and growing a new appreciation for their hard-working educators.

Teachers are sending handwritten notes to students for the first time in decades and gifts are being dropped off on doorsteps.

Many local examples include the success of “adoption” like events for both high school seniors and Southeast Texas teachers.

Bethany Riley, an eighth grade ELAR teacher at Groves Middle School, was adopted by a former student’s parent and said she had never felt more appreciated.

“This means so much to me,” she said. “To know our community supports us as teachers is huge. This year has been especially difficult. Not only have we changed the way we teach during this pandemic, we are also missing our students. So to know that people are out there trying to help means everything.”

The celebrations are not stopping. They are evolving, changing, transforming and coming from the heart.

You can’t buy a smile at the store or tears of joy at a gas station. Those raw emotions only come from gifts given with love, time and dedication.

New Nederland homeowner Lauren George came home to a surprise Monday evening after a complete stranger moved her lawn.

“My husband and I just bought our house right before COVID-19 hit and have a baby due next month, so we haven’t quite been able to purchase a lawn mower,” George posted on the All Things Nederland Facebook page. “It was definitely a blessing coming home to the surprise of the lawn being cut.”

Acts like this, and so many more, have multiplied in the last few months because the coronavirus is giving us the one thing many of us lacked — time, and it’s remarkable what the community is doing with that time.

Take a moment to figure out what money can’t buy and celebrate it.

Cassandra Jenkins is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at cassie.jenkins@panews.com.