INDIANAPOLIS  —  It is perhaps unsurprising that John Krasinski’s brand new show, “Some Good News,” has risen in popularity with the same turbocharged upward trajectory as COVID-19 cases and unemployment filings.

After all, at a time when day-to-day life seems filled with news generally ranging from devastating to disappointing, tuning in to watch police cars line the streets in a show of support for hospital workers, the original cast of “Hamilton” sing together on Zoom to soften the blow of someone’s long-awaited trip to the theater being canceled, or a neighborhood lineup to cheer a teenager’s recovery from cancer reminds us that humans can and do rise to meet moments of devastation and disappointment with incredible compassion.

There are many extraordinary examples of communities coming together to recognize and assuage the impact of the sacrifices and uncertainty that challenge us during this difficult time. Perhaps even more inspiring are what in ordinary times are routine acts of going to work in hospitals, grocery stores, childcare facilities, distribution centers, and other institutions that have always been critical but now are actively proclaimed essential. And, while not necessarily part of systems all of us encounter frequently, those who staff food banks, social service agencies, and unemployment offices have new visibility as they work to connect families to life preservers.
With more and more Hoosiers understanding what it means to rely on others to meet basic needs and stay healthy, our gratitude for support and essential services increases.

As we toggle between crushing news on the one hand and signs of hope on the other, we should not forget that impressive displays and individual acts are not the only ways to express care for one another. We can do so through policy. Always at heart a product of our values, policy sets expectations for how we treat one another and dictates where our community resources should be invested. Individual acts of service and sacrifice are no substitute for laws and budgets and that encourage – demand, even – that we support and uplift one another.
 
If we recognize that staying home when you are sick is not only an act of self-care, but also a way to protect public health, we should have paid-leave laws. If we view childcare as an essential business, we should invest in a quality system that can sustain workers with adequate pay and benefits.

If making a loan at 200% interest would seem like taking unfair advantage of another person’s distress during this pandemic, we should reinstate usury laws and make alternative forms of support available to those in crisis. If a sudden shock can turn everything upside down, we can and should ensure that we have systems in place to keep people housed, fed, and healthy when life deals them a devastating blow.  

The scale of this crisis is unique, but the reality is that, even before COVID-19, people experienced sickness and needed time off. Some workers provided essential services like caring for young children or stocking shelves without receiving enough to meet their own needs.

Some bad actors took unfair advantage of others. Even ordinary life events can throw a wrench into everything, let alone a global crisis, and our systems let people fall through the cracks.

I hope our collective vulnerability helps us see more clearly how interconnected we are, and recognize that to make the acts of care and service continue, we need policy to hold these expectations in place. As we emerge from this crisis, we should make sure Some Good News lasts. 

Erin Macey, PhD, is a senior policy analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families and the Indiana Community Action Association.