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Giving and Receiving in Times of Uncertainty

By Hallie Gayle

We’re about a month into quarantine, and many of us are discovering—through trial and error—what works best for us as we maneuver through our days inside our homes. Some have been hit harder by the changes than others.

Daily routines have been shattered, and our jobs are demanding us to practice new skills we are not used to in an environment that is not exactly suitable for productivity. Many people have lost jobs and are having to trudge through the difficult waters of unemployment. Our income might not be what it usually is, and working parents are having to scramble as they balance family and work through the long hours of the day.

There is a broad range of how COVID-19 is affecting individuals and families. From the healthcare providers fighting on the frontline to affected patients to those who are enjoying the downtime.

Some of us have the freedom of time off: time to exercise, spend time with family, bake, read, and discover new hobbies. Others are struggling with anxiety and loneliness. While some people still have their salaries, many of us aren’t able to meet month’s end. Children who depend on the school system for food, education and socializing might not have these resources and comforts at home. Although all of our experiences are unique during this time, it is also true that we are a part of a community. The ripple effects of COVID-19 is all over the news and in our personal lives.

Many people need help, and many people with resources and skills are watching the news feeling helpless because they want to act, but how?

We are in a global crisis that is asking all of us to do our part. Watching the news can sometimes feel paralyzing, especially when we can’t leave our homes. Some of us don’t have much to give and surviving and asking for help is all we can do. That’s okay! Strong communities are held up by a flow of give and take. Here are some tips to consider as we look for ways to help.

1. Consider what you have to offer. There’s more to giving than donating money, but if you have money and want to give, go for it. There are many non-profits, both local and global, that will benefit from donations. But for those of us who are tight on money, consider what other resources you could offer to people virtually. Do you have time you want to spare? Creativity? Patience? Knowledge? Organizational skills? Humor?

2. Identify what matters to you. It might feel overwhelming as we take note of the tremendous amount of disasters happening right now. That’s why it’s important to narrow down some key problems where we really feel a call to give and help. Are you concerned with education? The wellbeing of children? Hunger? Domestic violence? Do you want to see local and small businesses stay afloat? Maybe you’re most worried about the immediate effect of the virus and want to support medical health providers. Choose one or make a list.

3. Do your research. Once you’ve focused in on a few issues you really care about, start researching nonprofits and charities in your community that are doing similar work. Look for organizations that have a reputation of being efficient and trustworthy. Social media is also a great way people spread the word about organizations, charities, or families that are in need. Keep reading articles to stay informed about the issues you care about. Even if you can’t provide donations at this time, just being aware and informed makes you an active member of your community.

4. Remember individuals. Many people think that during a crisis, if we are going to help, we need to save the world. This extreme thinking might shut people down. “I’m not a doctor, politician, or a philanthropist, so what can I do?” It’s always important to remember that while there’s a lot of tragedy on the news, individuals who you love are suffering as well. Check in with your grandparents to see how their day has been. Have dinner delivered to your daughter in college who’s stuck in her apartment in another state finishing her final essays and exams. Send out daily messages to your close friends with encouragement or humor. Organize virtual lunches with your colleagues who need to talk about something other than work.

5. Don’t forget self-care. Stress and anxiety are at an all time high in some of our lives. Money problems, boredom, loneliness, changes, you name it. Give to yourself by learning what it is that you need. If you need community, reach out to a friend or find an online meetup group. If you need more structure, make lists and design a calendar. Remember to stay healthy and active. Accept the craziness and the unproductive days as well. We cannot give to others if we do not take care of ourselves.

In a time of crisis, there’s not much time to wait around for political systems, organizations, or businesses to tackle all the big issues and disasters. Change can still happen on an individual and micro level. Giving allows us to feel a part of our community and larger society, which is especially important now as we live our lives in quarantine. We are all in this together, and every act of kindness matters.

Hallie Gayle is a writer and world traveler with a range of experience in education, community development, and culture exchange.

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