If a certain trace of hopelessness invades some corner of your day, it’s no wonder: We are living through a pandemic the likes of which none of us have ever before experienced. Nothing about this is fun. Our news feeds, headlines, and the daily press conferences packed with information bring a heaviness to our lives, adding worry and fear to an already tall pile.

Every once in awhile, I glimpse something in my social media feed that brings a smile to my face. Maybe it’s a photographer taking portraits of families on their porches, or two doctors from the Mayo Clinic performing a chilling rendition of “Imagine,” or a couple of members of Buck It Up Brass playing music on a street corner in Saint Paul. This morning it was the cast of Hamilton singing to a nine-year-old girl.

All of these perfect strangers – the doctors, the photographer and Lin-Manuel Miranda – have leveraged this difficult moment to create something that brings others joy. So I decided that I want to be a part of this, too.

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Editor’s Note: As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds in Minnesota, certain details in our stories about the impact of the virus may become outdated within hours, days or weeks of our publication. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in Minnesota, please visit the websites for the Office of Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan or the Minnesota Department of Health.

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Such a gesture of creative generosity doesn’t need to be grand. As I walk around my neighborhood, I see chalk art on driveways; I see hearts cut out of construction paper in windows; people I’ve never met before smile and wave as we pass each other. You don’t need to be famous or ultra-talented to make a difference.

In this spirit, I enlisted the help of my fifteen-year-old daughter, Ani. I needed her to help me pull off a little something that may bring a smile to the faces of a few passersby. When in school, Ani acts and is on the speech team with her high-school classmates. So among the three other people in my household, she has the experience to help me pull this off.

What exactly is this? We decided to see what would happen if she told jokes from a socially safe distance at the end of the driveway.

The result turned into a variation of street performance art, I think. Maybe. Ani claims to have developed this character on-the-spot, and decided it was goofy and awkward enough to run with it. We hope it makes you smile. As her father, I sure enjoyed making this with her as both the star and sidekick. As my daughter, she wants you to understand that she was in character and is only this deadpan when a global pandemic triggers a social experiment in driveway humor.

 

My question to you: What have you seen that makes you smile, that makes you feel something other than a pervasive uneasiness? Give us all a hand and share it. Goodness knows we could all use an excuse to feel a glimmer of positivity.

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Meet one Minnesotan – Dan Schlissel, founder of Stand Up! Records – who knows a thing or a hundred about the art of the laugh.

Despite your need to laugh right now, you may be feeling pretty serious about tending to your yard and gardens due to a little extra time on your hands. Put down the rake and read this before you head outside.

“Minnesota Boy” and “Gravitybear” are two brothers – Tim and Thom Larsen – and avid geocachers, a hobby that’s perfect for keeping the “social” in social distance. Discover more about their passion and how you can get the whole family involved.