How to Feel Less Helpless During the Coronavirus Shutdown
10 things you can do to help neighbors, friends, and businesses through the pandemic
Living under social-distancing and stay home orders isn’t easy. When the best thing you can do to help the world is stay home, it’s easy to start feeling really helpless. We can’t control what’s happening, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take some action to support each other.
In times when we’d normally be able to gather and offer help, to come together as communities, we’ve got to stay apart. Luckily, there are still things you can do to experience usefulness and certainty while almost everything seems to hang in the balance.
Find a Local Helpers Group
Before our Governor even enacted our Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, someone had started a community helpers group on Facebook. The group has been a hub for people to seek and offer help, organized by neighborhood. It’s allowed people to support their at-risk neighbors by doing errands for them, and to reduce exposure by combining store and pharmacy visits for multiple households. It’s also allowed people to reach out for help with things like the vehicles they need to do essential tasks.
Whether you’re able to offer someone help or you need a bit of a hand yourself, connecting with people in your community is a great way to remember that people are real and good, and we’re all in this together.
Our beloved locally owned businesses are taking some of the hardest hits right now. Many of them don’t have the resources behind them big corporations and chains do, and the reserves they do have are being stretched thin. Look into whether your favorite mom and pop shop offers phone or online sales, shipping, or curbside pickup. If you’re not sure, just ask! Many business owners are willing to work with customers to stay connected.
Missing your locally grown fruits and country eggs? Though farmers markets have been cancelled in many areas, vendors may be doing deliveries or setting up locations to be able to provide products to their customers. Check out their Facebook or web pages for information on whether you can still shop with them in a safe and distanced way.
Purchase Gift Certificates
Buying gift certificates is a way to support your favorite restaurants and businesses with some revenue, even if you can’t visit them in person. It will give them money now, when they really need it to stay afloat, and give you something to look forward to when we’re all able to be out and about again.
Think about the services you utilize regularly, and whether there’s a way to support them in the same way. Aside from restaurants and food service, many small beauty and self-care services are suffering right now. Masseurs, hairstylists, nail salons and other personal care providers often offer gift cards for future use.
Foster a Pet
Rescue organizations and humane societies are in desperate need of help to house and nurture our animal friends right now. For many, adoptions have come to a halt, and they aren’t able to run their facilities as they usually do. If you’ve got the space, time, and attention, consider contacting them regarding fostering.
The benefits to this are threefold: you get to help an organization that helps animals, you get to provide a safe and stable home for an animal in need, and you get the emotional benefits of having a fluffy friend to keep you company while you’re stuck at home.
Check in With Friends, Family, and Neighbors
Even if it’s just a kind note left on a neighbor’s door or a quick text or phone call to family, check-ins matter. They remind all of us that we are not alone, and that no matter what, we won’t be alone. We may not be able to be in the same room, but we can remind the people who care about us that we care about them.
As everything has closed down, many families are feeling a lot of strain. This is unlike anything most of us have felt in the past. People are afraid of losing their jobs, meeting their obligations, and not having the money to do so. A kind word can make a world of difference when life feels scary and uncertain.
Turn Cancellations into Opportunities
Pretty much everything has been put on hold. Some events are being rescheduled, but others are being cancelled because the future is uncertain. If you’re financially able to do so, this is a great time to consider a donation in lieu of a refund.
Many theaters and arts organizations are being hit extremely hard by the inability to hold events for the foreseeable future. If you’re financially stable enough, the price of your ticket could help them to keep their doors open once we’ve weathered the crisis.
Buy a Little Extra
With millions of Americans out of work and kids who depend on school breakfasts and lunches, it’s really important that we find ways to help our neighbors stay fed. Picking up some extra, shelf-stable items when you’ve got to head to the grocery store or make an online order is a great way to make sure your neighbors are able to eat.
You can donate food to local food banks, look for information on helping through your school district, or contact local churches, missions, and shelters. In my neighborhood, we have several blessing boxes, which members of the community work to keep stocked with items for families in need. Items can also be offered up in Facebook neighborhood or family support groups.
Keep Eating Out
Restaurants and farms are considered essential businesses and able to keep operating, but most have been hit hard by pandemic fears. Even those who are able to keep their kitchens open are suffering huge financial losses. Now is the perfect time to give extra love to your favorite restaurants or sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivery box.
Restaurants have also busted their butts to get delivery services online, often for free. Even if they’re not, take-out is an option, and enjoying the food you love from pillars of your community can be really comforting. We’re all craving something familiar and routine right now, and supporting businesses we love is a bonus.
Contribute to a Virtual Tip Jar
I first heard of the virtual tip jar from R. Eric Thomas. He posted that every day he would have gotten a coffee, eaten out, or gone to a bar, he was going to choose a restaurant or two and tip someone who works in the service industry. He created a Google document for the Baltimore area, so others could contribute if they were able.
A quick internet search brings up lists for cities like Philadelphia and Washington DC, and industry specific lists like one for coffee-industry workers in Seattle. You can also give directly to your favorite service industry workers if they have Venmo or Paypal.
Lean in to Letting Go
I know, this one is a little less concrete. A lot of us are dealing with a high degree of uncertainty in our lives, and the only thing we can really do is try to accept it. Most of us go through our lives carrying a whole lot of expectations, and right now we need to learn how to put them down.
Let’s face it, 2020 is not really turning out how any of us thought it would. One reason we’re feeling helpless is because we are trying to anticipate what comes next, and we just can’t. It’s much easier said than done, but trying to move into acceptance of this unsurety and look at the silver linings will help ease the pain of our inability to do more. We are all doing what we can, and that is enough.
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