Virtual cards spread love in the time of coronavirus

Mona Helgeland was sad for her children. Their birthdays are coming up, but they are self-quarantined because of the coronavirus and going to miss celebrating with friends and family.

So Helgeland, a Norwegian single mother of two, went on Facebook groups and asked people to post greeting cards. She said she had been “blown away by the kindness.” In just a few days since that first post, she has received dozens of cards from across the world – from Alaska to South Africa.

“It’s beautiful. I started crying,” Helgeland, 37, said about the cards that some have posted with drawings of her son’s favorite Japanese cartoon characters, or cows, zebras and hearts, as well as photos from the studio where they make the Harry Potter movies that her children love.

To Helgeland, who has a painful spinal joint disorder called ankylosing spondylitis, the message during these uncertain times is clear: “It’s important to stay positive and take care of each other and spread love, not just the virus.”

Amid the grim news Helgeland has seen goodness, one card at a time.

“They’re making the effort, going out of their way for someone they don’t even know,” Helgeland said in an interview via videoconferencing. “I’m blown away by their kindness.”

Helgeland lives with her family in Ålgård, about 300 miles southwest of the Norwegian capital of Oslo. She had been planning for the birthdays of her children: Kristine, who will turn 17 on March 26, and Vetle, who will be 14 on April 6. Instead, the three of them are isolated at home.

“They’re so scared,” she said about how news of the virus has affected them. “I wanted to do something to cheer them up.”

Over the weekend, she wrote notes and posted them on Facebook groups, including “Little love notes from around the world!” and one called “Random Acts of Kindness.” She told people about the chronic illness that she has had for 10 years, the isolation during the virus outbreak and about her family: how her daughter loves cows and dogs and the “Outlander” TV show; how “My Hero Academia” is her son’s favorite cartoon.

“Hi everyone! Hope you all are safe and well with everything happening around the world. I want to ask you a favour,” she said in her note where she asked for a card (“it doesn’t have to be anything fancy”) for her children. “I want to make their birthdays something to remember with joy,” she said. “And hope to make them both a “love/happy birthday-from-around-the-world note.”

The photos of the cards started coming in, one after the other from all corners of the world. Her favorite?

“Oh my God, I love them all,” she said. “They’re all special.”

There’s one with the photo of a tiny, florescent green iguana from Jacksonville, N.C., and another with the giant brown moose from Sterling, Alaska. And one is a cartoon of a man in a kilt next to his dog, from Scotland. Several include landmarks and landscapes, a sunset from Idaho, the “Plaza de Armas” square of Veracruz, Mexico, and a dog on a beach in Melbourne, Australia. One with a cartoon cow that reads: “Dear Kristine, your mother’s love is so big that this ‘moooooosage’ came from Alberta, Canada.”

Savannah Foster, 33, from Collinsville, Ill., sent Kristine a hand-drawn card with a birthday cake and for Vetle, some stars. She first read Helgeland’s message in the Facebook group “Little love notes around the world,” and the women have kept in touch and said they had become friends.

“Just knowing how far a mother would go for her kids. It’s just the small things, but there’s love. That moved me,” said Foster, who recently put a message on Facebook offering toilet paper rolls for the elders in her town. “It says that no matter where you are, we are people and as long as we stick together, the world can be OK,” she said. “It is hope. There’s definitely hope.”

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