My wife’s grandmother was fond of saying “you get used to hanging, too.” Perhaps that is what is happening for me. I can’t say that I am in active distress as I hunker down in my home and keep away from public spaces. I’m an introvert and do most of my work from home, anyway, so what is so different? But there is a weight bearing down on me – I’m sure you feel it, too – a sense of dread mixed with frustration, longing, and worry that pulls me down during the day and wakes me up in the night. It probably should be utter panic, given that I read newspapers and look at social media. But for me the feeling is more ache than pain.
As the virus spreads I hear more stories about people I know or knew, and heartbreaking accounts of families and friends who abide, helplessly, at a distance from their ill loved ones. As the stories compound and deepen I find myself increasingly irritable – a clear sign that it is getting to me.
So why am I sharing this with you? Certainly, misery loves company, but that’s not it. I want to do something positive and helpful. Doing something for others is its own good and it renews our feelings of connection with others. And it’s even better when others do something positive, too. Joining together in a common effort inspires hope and eases our fear and frustration.
Of course making a difference right now is a bit challenging given the limitations on our movements and the closure of the places we go to to make a difference. But I believe we can make a difference and I have some ideas for how you might do that:
Direct financial support for people who were working jobs that paid by the hour but are now laid off, or people who were working in the unofficial economies: domestic, yard care, and restaurant workers. Some of these people may have even worked for you or for someone you know. Send them money (if you’ve got it) and help them survive.
Don’t know anyone personally? Perhaps you would consider donating to the Coronavirus Care Fund of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and help provide cash emergency assistance. Or contribute to one of the food service/farm related organizations on Foodtank’s list.
I happen to be very concerned about people who have been swept up by the criminal justice system and hope you are, too. There are, according to an opinion piece in the New York Times by Neil Barsky over 670,000 people “in our jails and immigrant detention centers, accused but not convicted of a crime, often for long stretches, waiting for their trial or a hearing.” There is no way to ensure social distancing in a jail or prison and that puts prisoners, guards, and the general public at risk. You can help at least some of them get out of jail by donating to a bail support organization such as the Bail Project or the National Bail Fund Network.
It’s understood that this may not be the best time to urge people to increase donations but the need is tremendous and growing fast so please see what you can do. To inspire you, the AEU will be participating in GivingTuesdayNow – a worldwide day of generous giving on May 5th that is an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. We’ll be sending out more information about that very soon.
Perhaps your Society is already engaged in ethical action – which is great. I understand Mid Rivers has been doing quite a lot: a sign-planting action for a local nursing home along with a gift of arts and crafts supplies to be delivered there, a fund to help any of their members who have lost their income and need money for food, rent, and other necessities, running errands for older members, driving by lonely members’ homes to wave and cheer them up, and contacting members and friends by phone for wellness checks and conversations. I’d love to hear what your Society has been doing so please send an email to email@example.com or call/text me at (914) 263-6667.
The AEU is also working on another support: an online class on “Activism at a Distance” that will help participants explore ways to be effective agents of change during this time of physical distancing. This one will take a couple of weeks to pull together – which will give you more time to marshall your resources for GivingTuesdayNow (and contacting your friends to urge them to participate)!
Wishing you well as you navigate the week ahead!