Image courtesy of Jedidiah Yang
In a crisis as anxiety-prone as a pandemic, it seems counter intuitive that the community is called to do the opposite of something. In fact, the community is called to do nothing. Although countless statistics and news stories daily show that social distancing and putting a pause on everyday life is the most effective thing each person can do to fight COVID-19, it can feel very frustrating and helpless at times. However, one freshman at State High has found a way to make a difference within his community, all from behind a medical mask and a pair of gloves.
Jedidiah Yang and his family have been distributing medical masks for free around State College to prevent the spread of the virus. “We knew that there was a lot of shortage of the face masks due to the virus, so we had to call up one of my uncles, who’s a doctor and he actually had a lot of face masks,” Yang said, “so he sent a bunch of them over. And we still had extras, so we thought, ‘we have a lot, so why don’t we just give them out to hospitals or something?'”
When the masks first arrived, Yang and his family took steps to sanitize each individual mask to prevent any spreading of COVID-19. “It was actually my mom who did a lot of work,” Yang said. “She gave all these masks to people working in stores, and after that, we decided to give them out to the neighborhood because we still had a lot. She told me to just give them out to three different neighborhoods. It was my neighborhood, which is Saybrook, and then Chestnut Ridge, and Green Leaf Manor.”
When it came to finding a way to bring these masks door-to-door without putting anyone, including himself, in danger, Yang created a routine that would abide by social distancing and sanitary recommendations. “I actually used a pencil to ring their doorbells because we don’t want to touch anything,” Yang said. “When they open the door, we step back a couple feet and ask them if they want any. We set them right in front of us instead of actually giving them to neighbors, because even if it’s not human contact, just breathing near someone is dangerous. So, we set it right in front of us a couple feet away. We wear face masks, we wear as much protection as possible, and we wear really protective gloves for everything, because people have to feel comfortable with actually receiving the masks.”
Yang also recounted his neighbors’ reactions, which were generally those of surprise. The receivers of these masks were extremely grateful and hadn’t expected to be lucky enough to come by a free collection of masks. According to NPR, the heavy-duty N95 masks used by healthcare workers are at a dangerous shortage for both high-risk workers and everyday citizens alike. Up to 90% of mayors across the U.S. have reported shortages of supplies, including masks.
After distributing all his masks around his neighborhood, Jedidiah Yang shared a photo of the box of full masks and captioned it to explain what he had done. He received overwhelming feedback. “That really touched me,” Yang said, “because people started reposting and I was like, ‘wow.’ It got pretty crazy, too. Helping people out makes others see how we can actually help out and it’s a good feeling.”
Finally, Yang summarized the importance of doing what one can in times like these, even if it seems small. “It’s bigger than you think because it could really change someone’s life,” Yang said. “And helping out with little things like this in a little area won’t change the world, but it can change lives for some people. Just that kind gesture can really reach the people in need. It shows compassion, and it shows healing as well. I think it’s just one of the best ways to show love to someone.”
Despite being outside of the physical building, State High students can, like Jedidah Yang, find ways to love each other, even from six feet away.