Published: March 18, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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“Crisis doesn’t change people; it reveals them.” – Eric Walters, Canadian author

Character is not something we’re born with. It’s a combination of our highest attributes developed throughout our lives. Time and again, we see remarkable demonstrations of character in small and large ways. Many of them don’t make the news. Here are three that did.

Last Wednesday, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced that they both tested positive for the coronavirus while on location in Australia.

“Hello, folks. Rita and I are down here in Australia. We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches. Rita had some chills that came and went. Slight fevers too. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus and were found to be positive.

“Well, now. What to do next? The Medical Officials have protocols that must be followed. We Hanks’ will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety require. Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no?

“We’ll keep the world posted and updated.

“Take care of yourselves! Hanx!”

“People across the globe sent Mr. Hanks ‘get well’ messages; others asked for 2020 to be canceled,” The New York Times reported (Mar. 12). “Many thanked Hollywood’s unofficial goodwill ambassador for his ‘graceful leadership’ …”

What makes this particularly special is that due to their high profile, the actions that Hanks and his wife have taken in seeking medical help and notifying the press have amplified concern about the virus and have had a very real impact.

They could have kept it private, (until the media ultimately would have discovered it). Their concern for others encourages us to listen to the experts and take the necessary precautions.

Chef Jose Andrés is the man responsible for serving more than 3.5 million meals to residents of Puerto Rico after the devastation from Hurricane Maria in 2017, and again when the small island was struck by a 6.0 earthquake in January.

With the coronavirus forcing many restaurants to close, Andrés is stepping up yet, again! “Chef José Andrés is transforming eight of his acclaimed restaurants in New York City and Washington, DC, into gourmet soup kitchens of sorts for those who are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic,” The New York Post reports (Mar. 16).

“While the to-go only meals cost $7 for guests who can afford it, volunteers running the community kitchens will be flexible with patrons who may be out of work or financially constrained due to a near shutdown of daily life. There’s also an option to donate a meal to someone else who might need it.

“ ‘Those who cannot afford to pay we will welcome as well,’ Andrés said in a statement, adding that many of his restaurants will otherwise be closed.”

He’s also assisting his employees by giving them paid leave for at least two weeks.

André’s compassion and commitment are boundless, and is an example of how one individual, and his loyal staff, can make a real difference.

While Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has postponed primary voting to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the Coaches Bar and Grill in Columbus was busy preparing to close last Sunday on orders by the governor to close all restaurants and bars and limit their service to carry out and delivery. Before they closed, however, one anonymous customer surprised the staff with a $2,500 tip following a dinner order of $29.75.

“ ‘It brought some of them to tears. They are going to split it 13 ways and it’s going to help them and we are a family and we will get through it together,’ Coaches employee Benny Leonard told WCMH. ‘It’s humanity at its best,’ Leonard added.”

Character is forged by facing problems, large and small with a sense of duty and assurance. And when we face an extraordinary crisis, one that challenges us all, it’s the character of individuals who step forward and do what is necessary – not because they’re asked – but because they see a need.

Whether it’s actors sharing their personal experiences to validate how serious a crisis is and encourage us to take action; a restaurant patron whose kindness helps the staff who have been affected by a business closing; or a chef who voluntarily steps into an unexpected emergency and feeds millions, all demonstrate that singular quality of character.

No matter their race, color or creed, people of character formed a country, fought wars and survived hardships. During this latest crisis, the compassion, commitment and concern for others is another demonstration of America at its best.


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