Matt Friedman’s Letter to the Editor at SCMP

With governments worldwide struggling with the pandemic and each day bringing out the worst in some people, let us find the hero in ourselves and volunteer to make the city better

As dramatic reports of the coronavirus continue to unfold here in Hong Kong and around the world, and as terms such as “pandemic”, “mass quarantine” and “emergency measures” are repeated over and over again, it is easy to feel depressed, fearful and full of panic. Over the past six weeks, we have seen people in Hong Kong wearing masks, running out to buy essential supplies, and avoiding social contact. This same trend is being followed across the world. We do what we need to do to fend for ourselves.

We are beginning to see that this crisis, like any major global challenge, has the potential to bring out the worst in people. All over the internet are videos showing physical fights over toilet paper, condemnation of those who came from infected areas, and people turning their backs on those in need.

But it does not have to be this way. This world belongs to us all. We must all take some responsibility for it in the face of a challenge like this. Instead of running and hiding, we can step up and be a part of the solution. The best of Hong Kong can rise to the surface, and we can work in a united way to meet the needs of our beloved city.

When there is a crisis, we usually turn to our government for help – this is true of all cultures. But, with each day, it is clear that most governments are finding it difficult to cope with the sheer magnitude of this unprecedented problem. The challenges go well beyond what a few thousand people can fix. This requires an army of united people – people who care.

One example of an organisation stepping up is HandsOn. Immediately after the virus became a known threat, they started mobilising volunteers to distribute hygiene kits, masks, bleach and food to the elderly and street cleaners. They identified a need and linked up people willing to help. If 10,000 people in Hong Kong stepped up and offered a compassionate gesture, no matter how small, imagine the impact. Success in this area is a numbers game.

We should consider everyone who volunteers, no matter how big or small the gesture, to be heroic. There is heroism in every one of us. It is a voice of good, of righteousness, of action, and of love. In today’s world, this voice too often lies dormant and receives very little nurturing. This heroic part of us can rise up and face the problems of the world head on.

Let us show that the best of human nature prevails in Hong Kong.

Matthew Friedman, CEO, The Mekong Club, Hong Kong

Join the Be the Hero This campaign’s motto is small acts multiplied by millions of people can change our world!