In late March 2020, as Chicago was shaking off winter and welcoming spring, my wife and I decided to celebrate Easter in a new way because of the pandemic. Like most other folks, we wanted to spend Easter with our family, but it didn’t seem safe. So, we created a neighborhood celebration that we could do at a distance instead.

At the time, we were living in a neighborhood just west of downtown Chicago near the United Center where Chicago’s favorite team plays basketball. The Tri-Taylor neighborhood is a vibrant community that hosts biannual cleanups and a neighborhood block club heavily influenced by the two schools in the area. It’s common to recognize and wave at families and familiar faces, which is not the Chicago that everyone knows. 

Our plan was to assemble and deliver Easter bags to every family and child on our block. We filled each bag with candy, small trinkets, and included a simple note: “Happy Easter! We pray you’re safe and healthy this Easter and during these quarantine times. Grace & Peace, Audrey and Dietrich Hunter at 906.” 

When delivery day finally arrived, we hit the pavement at dawn to make sure everyone would wake up to their Easter surprise. To keep our distance, we tethered each bag to the gates in front of each house or placed the gift on their stoop. At the end of “Operation Easter,” our block looked incredible, draped in symbols of a celebration that means so much to us. 

We watched from the window as kids and families discovered this surprise. Our excitement was matched every time someone found their Easter bag. Within a few days all the bags were taken inside, which was a clear sign of success, but we had no idea what would happen next.

Over the next two weeks there was a massive outpouring of love from everyone who received a bag. People expressed their gratitude in person and with notes that flooded our mailbox. Our neighbors were extremely grateful to be invited to celebrate Easter in this small way. This simple act of kindness created connection and support on our block—we began to see our neighbors make a greater effort to care for one another. It was beautiful to know that our simple attempt to be better neighbors had brought us closer together as a community. 

It’s clear that the pandemic has caused chaos and uncertainty across the world, and it hasn’t always brought out the best in humanity. But if you look closely at our neighborhoods, you’ll see a growing commitment to caring for each other, just as we learned on Chicago’s West Side.

We believe that a hopeful neighborhood is one where neighbors long for their neighborhood’s well-being. Simple actions like sharing candy and a note can have a big impact on the social well-being of a neighborhood. How have you contributed to your neighborhood’s well-being throughout the pandemic? Share your stories in the comments!