We're going to have to help one another through the chaos of this pandemic
Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

We're all feeling the stress and strain of the pandemic sweeping the planet, the likes of which we've never seen in our lifetimes. Life as we know it has shifted quickly, everything feels shaky, and people are understandably anxious.

There are also many of us who have extra cause for concern or caution, due to advanced age, compromised health, or financial fragility. While this crisis is undeniably hard on everyone, it's extra challenging for those who are at high risk from the virus or who are unduly affected by the economic implications of it all.


If this pandemic is proving anything to us, it's that we are all in this together. All truly meaning all. And if there was ever a time to go out of our way to be there for one another, this is it.

A story on Twitter this week illustrated this idea perfectly. Rebecca Mehra shared how she was walking into the grocery store when she heard a woman's voice yell to her from a car. When Mehra walked over to the car, she found an elderly woman and her husband sitting there.

"She cracked her window open a bit more, and explained to me nearly in tears that they are afraid to go in the store," Mehra wrote. "Afraid to get sick as they are in their 80's and hear that the novel coronavirus is affecting older people disproportionately. And that they don't have family around to help them out. Through the crack in the window she handed me a $100 bill and a grocery list, and asked if I would be willing to buy her groceries."

"I bought the groceries and placed them in her trunk, and gave her back the change. She told me she had been sitting in the car for nearly 45 min before I had arrived, waiting to ask the right person for help."

"I know it's a time of hysteria and nerves, but offer to help anyone you can," Mehra added. "Not everyone has people to turn to."

And there's the crux of it. Everyone is affected by this, and not everyone has people to turn to. We can either turn a blind eye to folks who need help, or step in to offer it.

The truth is that times of crisis can bring out the best or the worst in human beings. We all need to decide which it's going to be, and we need to decide now. It's not likely that things are going to get easier over the next several weeks, so now's the time for those of us who are able to reach out and let our fellow humans know we're there for them.

The first thing we can do to "love thy neighbor" is to heed the advice of medical professionals to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible. Wash hands religiously. Don't touch your face. Practice social distancing as much as possible.

But those of us who aren't as vulnerable as others can also think about proactive ways we can help. If we're young and healthy or if our family is young and healthy, can we run errands for those who aren't? If we have the means to stock up on groceries, are we able to offer assistance to those who don't? Is it possible to direct the money we'd normally spend on whatever is currently being canceled to help those who might not make ends meet this month?

These kinds of questions are vital to maintaining a sense of community, especially when we're asked to physically be apart as much as possible.

What's awesome is that people's better angels are hard at work already. For instance, I've seen beautiful ideas for helping others floating around such as:

  • Turning Little Libraries in people's yards into Little Food Pantries temporarily
  • Delivering flyers around the neighborhood letting people know you are available to run errands or grocery shop for those at high risk
  • Hosting online fundraisers for individuals whose livelihood is being deeply impacted by widespread shutdown—performers, small retailers and restaurateurs, etc.
  • Setting up neighborhood Facebook groups to keep communication flowing and offer a socially-distanced place to go for assistance
  • Tipping delivery people extra
  • Ordering from restaurants to support businesses impacted by coronavirus
  • Offering free childcare for parents who still have to physically go to work during school closures
  • Checking in with elderly and ill neighbors to make sure they are stocked with medications

No individual or family is an island, and it's increasingly clear that no country is an island in the proverbial sense, either. As the world figures out how to work together to get through this pandemic with as little collective damage as possible, we can do the same thing on a neighborhood level.

If we all take a community-minded approach to this worldwide crisis, it will all go so much smoother—and maybe we'll come out better for it on the other side.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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