In this Newsworthy series, students reflect on living in the shadow of the coronavirus.

My morning commute from the Inner West to the city now consists of side eyes and masks. People walk through life as though there's a ticking time bomb about to blow; instead of a simple "bless you", a single cough now creates disgust and anxiety.

Cross over to the shops and things take an even darker turn. As we know, shelves have been stripped bare in the stockpiling hysteria COVID-19 has created. What breaks my heart in all this are the stories and images of the elderly being left with nothing, especially considering they are the most at risk. When did society get so greedy and inconsiderate?

There were tears in the old lady's eyes as she expressed her gratitude.

But there are still people in society who try to help wherever they can. It turns out my mum is one of them. As she went about her weekly grocery shopping at Coles, Burwood, she hit the toilet paper jackpot, browsing the aisle as a worker started handing out the precious commodity, one pack of toilet rolls per customer. As you can imagine, within a few minutes the trolley of toilet paper was cleared, with my mum having got one. As she continued down the aisle, she heard an elderly woman begging the worker to see if there were any more toilet rolls.

"Please, I have a disabled daughter, we only have two rolls left. Please. Can you find anything?" The desperation in her voice was upsetting. The worker explained there was no further stock. Hearing this, my mum went over to the woman and gave her the one packet she had secured for our family of five. There were tears in the old lady's eyes as she expressed her gratitude. "God bless you," she said.

An Irish shopper nearby overheard the exchange. "What you did was very nice," he told my mum. "Since I'm only one person, here, take my toilet rolls, you look like you are shopping for your family." When my mum declined, he humorously tried to force her to take his toilet paper supply, putting it into her trolley. My mum declined again, not wanting to take his rolls as she knew everyone needed them.

Soon after, my mum was approached by a supermarket worker, who had checked again out the back. "Ma'am we saw what you did for that lady, and there is one packet of toilet rolls in the back." The worker offered her a smaller pack than the one my mum had given up. She gratefully accepted. The Irishman saw the size difference. He came over and swapped her rolls for his larger stash. They shared a laugh.

While the major supermarkets have now introduced special shopping hours for the elderly, good deeds like this shouldn't go unnoticed.

Not once, thinking of my future, did I imagine a world where we fought over toilet paper – or where it became the greatest gift of all.

* Podcast by Deanna Ruseska, Anna Nash and Chantale Symonds, from audio via Blackboard Collaborate.