Everything we believed was true has become subject to question or even reversal; everything we relied upon has shifted.
On a larger scale, the world – which we who lived and loved in the ‘60s believed we had influenced and changed for future generations – seems instead to be on a collision course with a reality we can barely comprehend. Autocrats have come into power in countries all over the world, from Brazil to the U.K. to the U.S. The climate crisis is accelerating at a pace beyond already dire predictions. And we face a pandemic that no one so far seems to have dealt with successfully.
Our children can’t go to school, and we are asked to work from home, or worse, simply told that our work for the present is not needed. There’s no basketball or baseball to distract and console us, and we can’t even go to the local watering hole to share our woes over a drink with our buddies, because the governor has ordered all bars closed. And we voted for the guy?
No handshakes, no hugs, no meetings. But it is essential that the recommendation for social distancing only refer to physical distance. Self-quarantine must not become isolation, a selfish walling-off from the rest of the world. Rather, we must forge, reinforce, and extend an emotional connection with everyone in our community.
Remember that those most impacted by the pandemic are also the most vulnerable – the elderly, the already ill, the homeless, and the majority of workers in our community who already are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and have no resources to meet this economic crisis. We must recognize their needs, and with generosity, compassion, and just plain common sense we must reach out to them. These are the qualities that keep a community from turning into a mob. And maintaining a sense of humor is another antidote to self-centered separation.
Here are a few ideas of ways you can support the community. Order take-out from the cafes and restaurants you used to frequent and be sure to leave a big tip. Send checks in the amount of their regular pay to everyone who in normal times does work for you, like housekeepers or gardeners; you can think of it as paid vacation or sick leave.Order a board game online and have it sent to a family home with their children. Buy gift certificates from local merchants and restaurants, for Christmas giving. Send a check to S.O.S.which continues to feed the homeless, or Redwood Empire Food Bank, filling the huge gap created by school closure.
We can also put pressure on our local, state, and federal elected representatives to take emergency actions to redirect funds directly for the benefit of the people who are adversely affected. And we can ask our local nonprofits to focus on this immediate and devastating crisis in our community. For instance, Impact100 might suspend the current application process and use those monies, now over $300,000, to address needs that were unforeseen when agencies originally applied in this grant cycle. Many people just might need to be given a fish; they know how to fish but the pond has dried up.
We are confident that once again our community can meet this new crisis with caring, creativity, and compassion. And hand soap.