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Sunday, September 27, 2020

What Mulan Can Teach Us About This Pandemic

Mulan steps outside her home, even disguises herself, to bravely contribute to the cause.

As I drove home from dropping my teenage daughter at her school bus stop on Sunset Boulevard early one morning, large billboards loomed above me. A new poster for the soon-to-be-released, live-action Mulan film caught my eye. She hovered over me in a classic warrior pose and I thought, “Boy, Disney princesses sure have come a long way.” My 14-year-old would want to see this, because the animated version is her favorite film.

Soon after, I began reading about a new virus that was destined to hit the country. I lay awake for a few nights and then began cleaning incessantly. As I struggled to adapt to the new normal, I thought of Mulan, warrior woman. The irony was not lost on me that Disney had decided to postpone the release of the film and would not release it on Demand. It was as if Mulan would hang suspended in time until the pandemic left us.

From the cocoon of my kitchen, I wondered if there was a way I could help. Mulan fights for her country and becomes a great warrior. But it was unclear to me how I could help my community. Could Mulan be an inspiration? I longed for courage and calm and knew I would only find it if I came up with an outlet for my pent-up energy, and my desire to connect and make a difference.

Tikkun Olam has long been a mainstay of Jewish life and I often favor direct, bold solutions. I donate clothes and whatever else I can to needy organizations, but I also have left bags of food by homeless people’s tents, and once walked several miles with a young homeless woman to show her the nearest shelter.

Mulan steps outside her home, even disguises herself, to bravely contribute to the cause. Maybe we need to step outside our comfort zones and confront the realities of the pandemic as it impacts our most vulnerable

Now facing a crisis of epic proportions, what do we do if we are not brave first responders or heroic essential workers? First, we keep our families are safe and healthy. Then, we search for ways to connect to and assist the most vulnerable in our community. Many are doing just that around LA County. But finding selfless, purposeful action often requires the ingenuity, resolve and perseverance of a warrior. Mulan steps outside her home, even disguises herself, to bravely contribute to the cause. Maybe we need to step outside our comfort zones and confront the realities of the pandemic as it impacts our most vulnerable.

As my daughter’s spring break approached, I sought a project relevant to our current situation. A fashion designer in the making, she decided to make masks, and it was up to me to find the raw materials. We had fabric from old sheets and bits of elastic, but not enough. Then, a woman working for the Israeli American Council (IAC), contacted me through the Milken Parent Association online chat and asked if we would donate 20 masks to the Silverado Beverly Nursing Home. Had I over stated our abilities in my zeal to do good?

I searched for elastic online. Sold out from every craft store, I ordered it through an Oregon strap-making factory and we waited anxiously for it to arrive. It was a bit thick, but Esther found a way trim and attach it to the 28 masks she had sewn.

As we drove to the nursing home, it felt like an epic journey, since I was hardly driving anywhere these days. The receptionist took the box on the street and said “thank you.” It felt like we were passing a torch of goodwill and hope to those who needed it most.

Warriors are not born…warriors create themselves through trial and error.

We may have cared about our community before, but we could not escape our connection now. Many throughout Los Angeles are contributing in similarly unprecedented ways — shopping for people at risk, assisting home-bound seniors, adapting businesses to make supplies. Our collective heroism shines bright, lifting us out of our confinement.

I imagine Mulan, hovering in space, pleased. From my online research, I learned, “Warriors are not born…warriors create themselves through trial and error…”

When the film is released in theaters, we will be there, wearing masks if necessary. And we will stay connected to our community because this sustains us in very real ways.


Deborah Fletcher Blum is a Hollywood based writer and documentary filmmaker.

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