People around the world have ached for anything to believe in. Science. Leaders. Each other. We want answers, even if they don’t come easy — or at all. What we have in their absence is a faith that somehow, everything will work out in the end. What we have — what we rely on — is hope.
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Grace Thomas, a 19-year-old college student taking online classes while living with a relative in Ridge Manor, composed a poem titled “Be Good To Yourself, Inspired By You," using lines clipped from the Tampa Bay Times. “It was a 2 a.m. kind of project," she said. “I cut out phrases that stuck out to me and arranged them until they could express an idea.” The poem’s recipient was a friend in Tallahassee. Thomas created it as part of a journal she’s planning to give her friend in exchange for some paintings. “She’s like nobody else I’ve ever met — an incredible creative force with a really unique way of thinking,” Thomas said. “I wish I could have spent more time with her before the pandemic both made us move, but we won’t be able to see one another for the foreseeable future.”
— Submitted by Grace Thomas, Ridge Manor
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Lexi Pakus had just turned 1, so her mother, Shannon, took her to Indian Shores Beach — Lexi’s first beach trip and first Gulf sunset.
“She wasn’t supposed to go in the water because she was in clothes, but I couldn’t keep her out of it,” Shannon Pakus wrote. “She loves the water!”
— Submitted by Shannon Pakus, Largo
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Chrisandra Burgess and her husband, Denis, live in Brooksville’s Brookridge community half the year. Normally, come spring, they’d head home to Cavendish, Vt. But Chrisandra said they decided to stay put amid the pandemic. To pass the time, Denis has been working on projects around the house, and Chrisandra has taken up embroidery. “Our son is getting married next April,” she said, “so I decided now is the time to start an embroidered crazy quilt. It will take a year to complete.”
— Submitted by Chrisandra Burgess, Brooksville
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“Every few days, I post positive messages and a little artwork to lift people’s spirits. I post these messages at the community mailboxes where everyone has access to them.”
— Submitted by Gail Dold, St. Petersburg
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One group that changed its policies during the pandemic: Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead of knocking on doors, missionaries delivered handwritten letters, like this one addressed to Elbert Humphers of St. Petersburg. “My name is Carmen and I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses," the letter states. “I would normally come to your door, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, I am writing to you (Prov 12:25). We definitely live in a fast changing world, which can make us feel uncertain about the future. The information on social media and the news can be overwhelming and cause anxiety. So where can we find good news?” The letter encouraged Humphers to visit the church’s website for online Bible study. "I hope you find comfort from the information. And I also hope you and your family are well. Take care, Carmen.”
— Maggie Duffy, Tampa Bay Times
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April 1st — God says in his word that His people perish for lack of vision. I believe that God allowed this COVID-19 virus to shake the world up in the year 2020 because it is symbolic of perfect vision for the future. No one can predict the future but when we trust God to lead us and we are willing to be used for God’s good purpose, then we have perfect vision and God will lead us where we need to go. Fear of the unknown has always been a huge obstacle for me and I’m sure I’m not the only one, but God is with me and I have already seen many ways in which his hand is upon me in this global crisis. Thank You Lord for always being on my side.
April 5 — Lord this is my second week on Safer at Home status. Help me to be productive and not lazy! I come against this evil spirit and the spirit of infirmity. Demons jump! This is how the whole world has been affected! You cannot quarantine the Holy Spirit!
— From the journal of Kathleen Gillard, Brandon
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Alfonso Vargas, an Oldsmar resident and neonatologist at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, wrote a song about our current moment for his band SweetLick.
— Submitted by Alfonso Vargas, Oldsmar
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Four-year-old Oliver figured out how to send videos to his grandparents, Dan and Laura Miller. He sent Dan this message: "Hi Papa! I’m here eating. Um, this virus is taking a long time. But when this virus goes away it will get back to normal! I wuv you.” For the Millers, “normal” is seeing each other three or four times a week, especially Friday night dinners. “Out of the mouths of babes,” Dan wrote when he posted the video to Facebook. “Breaking my heart. Stupid virus!”
— Submitted by Dan and Laura Miller, New Port Richey
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Matthew Cocker, 13, and his sister, Olivia, 11, created chalk art in their driveway in New Tampa.
— Submitted by Lisa Cocker, Tampa
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“Today is day 35 of isolation for me. It is difficult but absolutely necessary. We are all stunned, exhausted, discouraged and worried by the events that are happening now and what is still to come. I pray we all come through this more humble, more kind, more grateful for our blessings, more loving to our fellowman. I hope we will be better friends, better parents, better spouses, better children, better neighbors, that we will care for and treasure one another as we never have before. I hope we lift each other up and help those less fortunate when we can. I miss you all, pray for us all, and look forward to the time when we can again be together. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and one another. May God’s grace and mercy be with you.”
— Written and submitted by Patricia Eifler, Valrico, on April 19