How LeVar Burton (and others) helped us through the pandemic

This is part of the series I Want to Thank You. We ask our readers to tell us who helped them through the pandemic; Here are their selected stories. Other articles focus on Family and Friends and health care worker.

Who helped you through the pandemic? When we asked our readers, they mentioned friends, new and old, and familyand health care worker who took care of them and their loved ones. But some have never even met the person who helped them.

Here’s the story of four of those people: one who found comfort reading LeVar Burton’s podcast, one who discovered the Korean supergroup BTS, one who identified with Lily Tomlin’s character in “Grace and Frankie” and one who has never missed a local musician. daily web performance.

In November 2020, Mary Gaughan, her husband, and their two daughters left their 900-square-foot apartment in Brookline, Mass., to find a home in East Brewster, on Cape Cod. The famously empty summer vacation town – ideal to avoid Covid. But it was also lonely and cold, and offered little hope to Miss Gaughan.

Then she learned about “LeVar Burton Reads,” a podcast in which Mr. Burton, “Reading Rainbow” host and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” actor, narrates short stories. Miss Gaughan’s daily walks in the woods have turned into literary adventures.

“Although we are out of the city, it is not clear how we will return. How will our lives continue? ‘ Mrs. Gaughan, 57 years old, said. “Is there light at the end of the tunnel? That’s where this found me. “

During a walk, Miss Gaughan heard Mr. Burton read “Mother of Invention” by Nnedi Okorafor, Set in a future version of Nigeria. In Cape Cod, it was snowing, but Miss Gaughan found herself being transported. “It feels like being in a bubble,” she said. (At the beginning of each show, Mr. Burton encourages listeners to take a deep breath, inspiring Mrs. Gaughan to implement the breathing method into her life.)

Although Mrs. Gaughan and her family returned to their Brookline apartment last February, Mr. Burton continued to be a calming presence for her. She eventually completed the 170-episode catalog of the podcast, which she listened to on the Stitcher app this spring, but not before recommending it to about 10 friends.

“I just wanted him to know that this had a profound effect on my life during the worst period of the pandemic for us,” Ms Gaughan said. “At the end of each story, he will give you just a few moments, like, why did he choose this, what does it mean to him, how did he connect with it, what I really liked it because, again, I felt very isolated and not only reading a story to you, but sharing things about his life. “

After Ms. Gaughan sent her dispatch, the New York Times took her to California to meet Mr. Burton in person for the first time. He regularly meets with fans who, like Ms. Gaughan, have been following him since “Reading Rainbow” day, he later said. But Ms. Gaughan’s relationship with the podcast was particularly touching, he said. He felt an immediate kinship with her.

“It was like meeting a friend for the first time,” Mr. Burton said. “We have all this history in common, when we first met. I could tell if we lived closer together, we would, you know, we would meet. “

The antidote to Joanne Orrico’s pandemic malaise appeared last summer in a YouTube thumbnail. Ms. Orrico started the video and felt the change almost immediately. “Butter,” The non-stop catchy hits of K-pop groups and BTS all over the world, filled her earphones.

Ms Orrico, 56, said: “After I heard it, I listened to it again. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing.'”

The pressure to put on a happy face amid so much suffering and political turmoil has left Orrico, a school librarian from Las Vegas, feeling anxious and depressed. But as she learned more about the seven members of BTS – Jung Kook, V, Jimin, SUGA, j-hope, Jin, and RM – with their sunny disposition and positive lyrics, she rediscovered it. his strength. For Ms. Orrico, BTS has been “talking” to her for a while.

“It is important to spread kindness, acceptance and love,” said Orrico.

Orrico, of Japanese and Chinese descent, said her immigrant mother always emphasized the importance of behaving like an “American”. Orrico never understood the power of representation in the media, but that changed when she learned that the Korean group has a global fan base. At a time when anti-Asian violence is on the rise, Ms. Orrico is proud to know that people around the world enjoy BTS’s songs, most of them in Korean. Her awakening inspired her to start learning the language and start cooking Korean food.

BTS fans call themselves army (The lovely representative MC for young people); On April 15, some of them gathered at Allegiant Stadium, in Paradise, Nev. At the concert, Orrico looked out at the sea of ​​Army members, many of whom were dressed in purple – BTS’s signature color – and the country’s divisions seemed to melt away.

“Seeing people of all ages, seeing men, women, blacks, Asians, Mexicans. Grandpa, grandma, little kids and everyone. There’s nothing like hearing 40,000 people sing along to the songs,” she said. “In that brief period of time, nothing else existed.”

Orrico’s favorite moment comes when the group performs “Life goes on,” a somber pandemic theme song that brought Orrico to tears the first time she heard it. At the concert, Orrico, who attended with a friend she reconnected with after 30 years of their shared BTS fandom, said the group sang the song with a more upbeat tone.

“It was pure joy and happiness, like they were so happy to be there,” she said. “We feel it too.”

Hilary Almeida placed her laptop on her husband’s bedside and fell asleep while watching the Netflix hit “Grace and Frankie”.

It’s April 2020, and Ms. Almeida believes she has Covid – she has lost her sense of smell and feels tired, has a headache and a low-grade fever but doesn’t get tested because of low national supplies – and doesn’t want to spread the infection. her husband, a physician.

For a few months at their home in Teaneck, NJ, as her husband sleeps in the living room, Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) are the thoughts of Mrs. Almeida. She feels a special kinship with Frankie, an eccentric artist with deep compassion. Almeida, 65, is working as an English teacher for a junior high school, and she has been broadcasting the program continuously after work days as her symptoms flare up for several months.

“This vulnerable character, I can relate to all of this,” Ms. Almeida said. “She is very hot-tempered. I consider myself a strong person, but I found it very difficult at that time. I was very weak and had a headache. Frankie also has times when she is vulnerable and unwell, but she is full of emotions.”

Like many others, Ms. Almeida first discovered Mrs. Tomlin on the TV show “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”, which ran from 1968 to 1973, but her fandom has grown to another level. with “Grace and Frankie,” before the pandemic, she would follow up with her mother after her mother’s chemotherapy appointments. This practice became even more important after her mother died and the pandemic hit.

Grace and Frankie are an odd couple who plunge into friendship after their husbands reveal that they are in love. In Frankie, Almeida found a kindred spirit.

“I love her,” said Mrs. Almeida, “the way Grace learned to love her.”

During the pandemic, at her San Diego-area home, Janell Cannon and her cat, Taliesin, developed a routine every night around 9 p.m.

Miss Cannon will pour herself a glass of wine. Taliesin will curl up in his bed. And together they will listen to Semisi Ma’u’s performance of “Lata Lullaby”.

Ma’u, a musician with gray hair Albert Einstein who lives in the San Diego area, has been playing the song, written in honor of his mother, nightly on Facebook Live with various family members since May. March 2020 to March 2021. The performances, with guitar and a piano, will last about 5 to 10 minutes, and Ms. Canon was among the locals who tuned in.

Mrs Cannon, 64, said: ‘I never got tired of it. “Familiarity has helped deal with uncertainty.”

Although Mr. Ma’u and his family play the same song every night, a musician always makes time for a solo, whether guitar or drums or something else. Mrs. Cannon was particularly amused when Mr. Ma’u played the fangufangu (nose flute), popular in his native Tonga.

Miss Cannon, author of the popular 1993 children’s book “Stellaluna,” has been isolated, but she is hardly alone.

“Everybody loves Semisi,” she said.

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