All around the world, bears are popping up in windows and front gardens.
The teddies have made their way out of bedrooms, where their usual duty is to help children feel safe in the dark – to chase away the monsters in their minds.
But a new online movement has called the bears into action for the broader community, as we face the nightmare of this grim pandemic.
A growing number of people are placing bears in their windows as part of a “bear hunt” to entertain children during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.
Parents can take children for walks in their neighbourhood – while maintaining adequate physical distance from others – and kids search for the bears while getting exercise and time outdoors.
An Australian Facebook group, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt Australia, has attracted more than 17,000 bear hunters. Many other local groups are popping up. Members share photos of bears spotted in their area, and sightings grow by the minute.
Members share photos of bears spotted in their area, and sightings grow by the minute.
The beauty of the bear hunt is just how simple the activity is. The founder of the Australian group is Kate Mercer, a primary school teacher and mother of four children, who says “It’s an idea that costs nothing, it doesn’t rely on any technology and ANYBODY can join in the fun - whether that’s as a giver (putting a teddy in the window) or receiver (finding them on your travels!).”
Kate describes how the hunt has helped keep her children entertained and in good spirits: “My kids have found it very tough with everything being taken from them. Not just their beloved sports but the ability to play with other kids normally, visit relatives, go on our annual Easter holiday - everything is gone. So it has given them some childhood joy back again in this hard time - being able to decorate the front window with teddies and be excited about any outings we may take!”
And it isn’t just kids who can enjoy the benefits of the teddy bear hunt. Kate says, “We’ve heard of so many elderly and disabled people who are excited by the idea of being involved in a community event that brings joy to children.”
Many of us adults may be distressed at the thought of children feeling afraid and being deprived during the pandemic. It’s no surprise we feel compelled to do what we can to keep kids happy.
Folk wisdom tells us that we ourselves benefit from helping others, and scientific research also shows that performing acts of kindness improves our well-being.
But activities like the bear hunt also help us to feel that we belong to a community. As Kate describes, “…it also gave us a reason to smile and to connect with people around us during this difficult time.”
Seeing bears in the windows of our neighbours’ houses, even if they are strangers, is a signal of friendliness and warmth. It may elicit a sense of cooperation and trust in one another. A bear in the window is like the friendly smile and nod you give to a stranger. It’s a way of telling others that you are no threat.
And there is no understating the importance of friendliness at a time like this. When a crisis brings so much fear and uncertainty, we may find ourselves turning to others for reassurance.
We’ve certainly seen the more negative side of ourselves during this pandemic – like people fighting over toilet paper. Such incidents may only be the beginning of the conflicts we might witness as this pandemic worsens around the world. Panic during times of crisis can bring out our selfishness and hostility in ways that wouldn’t happen without the sense of threat.
We can benefit by actively supporting our sense of community in every way we can.
Fear, and all the reactions that can come with it, are stressful experiences. Friendliness and kindness are an antidote. We can benefit by actively supporting our sense of community in every way we can.
Perhaps the bears may come to be a symbol of the warmth and security of our communities during this pandemic. They are a small sign that we’re looking out for the well-being of others.
Let’s hope they can help us keep the monsters in our minds at bay.
Beatrice Alda is a freelance writer.
Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
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