Sharing during a pandemic? Sharing probably isn’t the first idea that comes to mind as it implies physical contact.
But there are innumerable ways to share that don’t require physical contact. And here’s why we should pursue them with extraordinary gusto during the pandemic.
In short, world leaders have failed to protect us from the coronavirus. They had a chance to contain it. But through delay, misinformation, denial, and unpreparedness, they have unleashed it on the world.
Now a growing number of us have been asked to cease our normal lives, shelter in place, and practice social distancing for who knows how long. And while it’s absolutely critical we do so to limit the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve been asked to bear the terrible costs of their incompetence in lost lives and livelihoods.
Leaders have also left us to figure out what stance to take in the crisis. From the official messages about social distancing and the like, it’s easy to assume that the only thing we should do is hunker down and wait the pandemic out.
Some messages offer no help. One world leader, when asked what he had to say to people who were scared, insulted the reporter. He had not a single comforting word or practical suggestion to offer.
In short, our supposed leaders have driven us to the edge of a public health and global economic abyss… and left us there. Even worse, some are taking advantage of the crisis to grab more profit and power. We can’t count on them to protect us.
So, we must protect ourselves.
We must do so by sharing, cooperating, and taking decisive action when leaders have failed to.
We must fill the leadership and systemic voids that the crisis has exposed. The stakes couldn’t be higher — every human on spaceship earth is at risk. This is a moment of decision for all of us.
Will we hunker down, hoard, heap blame on the blameless, stay mesmerized by the media, spread fear, devolve in our isolation, and turn away from others?
Or will we rise to the occasion, fill the leadership void, share solutions, develop as people, and find our purpose in helping each other?
While this choice may not have occurred to you, this really isn’t a choice. There’s no one at the wheel of our collective bus. We must take the wheel or the immediate toll will be more horrific. The long-term damage to the social fabric might even be worse.
While you may not see it, countless thousands are rising to the occasion. A large and rapidly growing wave of prosocial behavior, resource sharing, and mutual aid is sweeping the globe. A growing number of people are defining this moment through their warmth, bravery, diligence, generosity, and creativity.
Need I mention front line medical workers who are risking their lives to stem the toll? Their sacrifice is a testament to the beauty, boldness, and boundlessness of the human spirit.
We need to follow them safely into the breach. If you haven’t already, it’s time to join this wave of grassroots action. If you already have, it’s time to ask your friends and family to join it with you.
Working together (and at a safe distance), we can flatten the curve in a humane way and come out more human for it.
Here are 10 ways to get started:
1. Safety first.
Follow the shelter in place, physical distancing, handwashing, and other safety measures that reputable health authorities recommend. Encourage everyone around you to do the same. Following these with discipline may be the single most important act of solidarity you can undertake. This is a shared responsibility. You’ll protect yourself and many, many others. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.
2. Check in with your family, friends, neighbors, and the most vulnerable in your community.
Provide comfort, health guidelines, and whatever aid is needed to those closest to you. Stay in it with them. Depending on your situation, you might have your hands full with just this. If everybody does this, then everyone has access to at least a basic level of care and emotional support.
3. Support front line medical workers and the institutions they serve.
They’re the dam keeping back the floodwaters of infection. We can’t afford for this dam to break. Check in with your local hospitals to see what they need. People and organizations are already donating protective medical gear, medical equipment, meals, and more. You can even volunteer remotely or join an open source team designing medical gear. Start here to see where to jump in.
4. Join or start a mutual aid network.
Grassroots, volunteer-run mutual aid networks provide community-scale aid, often with a focus on mutual support for the most vulnerable. If you want to increase your impact locally, this is a great way to go. These have gone virtual during the pandemic using spreadsheets to match needs with resources. Here’s an inside look at one of the thousands of COVID-19 mutual aid networks started recently. Directories of them have popped up in the U.S., UK, and elsewhere. Search the web for one in your area. If there are none, start one. Sometimes all it takes are two friends and a spreadsheet.
5. Support those that need it the most.
This can include the elderly, those most vulnerable to the coronavirus healthwise, those previously or newly on the economic margins, those facing eviction, those experiencing racism or discrimination, people who are undocumented, victims of domestic abuse, people experiencing houselessness, people with disabilities, those with mental health conditions, and more. The pandemic poses unique challenges for people in these groups. Support can be direct, mutual, or through the many local service organizations. Search your area for your preferred channel.
6. Be social, safely.
As Shareable has reported, loneliness was a huge health challenge before the pandemic. Social distancing could make it worse. We already have an economic recession on our hands due to the pandemic, we don’t need a “social recession” to compound the misery. A more constructive approach is physical distancing with social solidarity, not social distancing. This is a time to be warm, friendly, and kind to those you know and strangers alike virtually and when you’re six feet apart IRL. This is also a time to exercise your social creativity. People are holding virtual happy hours, dance parties, birthday parties, book clubs, religious services, and more. Use this moment to reweave the social fabric.
7. Share reputable information responsibly.
It’s important to keep your friends, family, and community informed. However, the web is awash in misleading and even panic-inducing information about the coronavirus. Make sure what you share is from reputable sources. Cross-reference news reports with reports from other reputable sources. Equally important, make sure what and how you share doesn’t unintentionally induce panic. Balance sharing truthful, alarming news with relevant how-to, safety, and solutions information. To help you stay sane, consider a media diet that responsibly limits your news intake. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the 24/7 coronavirus news cycle. Panic kills, let’s stay calm.
8. Engage government.
Governments around the world are deciding how to respond to the immediate threat of the coronavirus and the second-order impacts. These decisions could reshape life in a dramatically different and potentially worse way unless the public’s voice is heard. As always, the rich and powerful are at the bargaining table. Make sure you are too. Check-in with your local and national representation about their coronavirus plans and make your voice heard. Only together can we beat coronavirus capitalism and rebuild on a more just and sustainable basis.
9. Budget time to do the above.
Schedule time each day for checking in, supporting front line medical workers, mutual aid, or preventing a social recession — whatever mix of activities make sense to you. Make it part of your daily pandemic routine. Share your contributions with others. Invite them to join in. It’s natural to feel a tad powerless in this situation, this is a way to take back some control.
10. Take care of yourself.
Last but definitely not least, take care of yourself. You can’t do the above if you’re not healthy yourself. As airlines advise in emergencies, put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. Depending on your situation, this might even be an opportunity to spend more time exercising, eating right, and finding ways to stay calm like yoga, meditation, and long walks.
There are many more ways to help. The number and variety of grassroots efforts is truly stunning. And now that you’re in charge, I’m betting you have your own ideas for mutual aid. Please share the actions you’ve taken or witnessed with us by email email@example.com or on Facebook.
And just as important — spread the word that it’s time to help each other, share resources, and share leadership.