When tragedy unfolds in one corner of the world, help rushes in from many sides. That’s one of the strengths of social media. There are always people who reach out to help – whether it’s through an international relief organisation, a Kickstarter campaign, or a call to a friend in the affected area.
But what happens when catastrophe hits the whole world at once?
The effects of COVID-19 have been sudden and sweeping. As we count the days in isolation, the realities of interdependence become more visible. We understand like never before that people and places are linked together, and that our actions do – for good or ill – affect others.
It’s no small irony that global interconnectedness should be thrown into sharp relief at precisely the moment when it becomes irresponsible to gather with others. But the pandemic, as painful as it is, has great potential to bring out the best in us – even if we need to get creative. Especially if we need to get creative.
When an 88-year-old British man passed away after testing positive for COVID-19, his family made a poignant request to friends and family. In lieu of sending cards or flowers, they should perform random acts of kindness (e.g. helping a family with shopping, or talking to someone who feels lonely). These acts would be posted to a coronavirus “wall of kindness” in the man’s honour.
For that family, and every other who lost someone to the pandemic, the pain is unspeakable. It’s a great example of taking a tragedy – the loss of a loved one – and making the best. Our first instinct in a crisis may be to take care of our own basic needs, but the longer we live in isolation, the more we realise that helping other people is a basic need too.
If you’ve been feeling rather helpless as you watch the crisis unfold on the internet and TV, here are a few simple forms of help you can render.
So we’re supposed to keep our distance from one another until further notice. That means no concerts halls, no sports arenas, no Autumn barbeques with friends – and when we do see each other (at the supermarket, for example), we’re supposed to keep our distance.
Fortunately, smiles have a wide radius, are totally free of charge, and are only contagious in the best possible way. A genuine smile is reminder that we are human, that life and happiness are worth fighting for, and that compassion is a powerful way to overcome adversity.
Reach out across cyberspace
Virtual gatherings have gone mainstream in a whole new way. It’s not that we didn’t have this technology before coronavirus, but now more of us really need it. Businesses need it to keep their teams coordinated, motivated, and tuned in to one another. Families need it to keep in touch – sometimes even in the same geographical area. Friends need it to provide each other with mutual support during these trying times.
It’s true that isolation is a good way to do things we wouldn’t normally do, to slow down, read more, take care of ourselves physically. Move too far in this direction, though, and it’s easy to lose touch with the struggles and stories of others.
Reaching out is powerful, no matter what type of digital communication is used. ‘Likes’ are nice, but when we receive a call or personal message from someone we know, just to ask how we’re going, it reminds us that we’re not alone. We’re in it together, and there is a vibrant world – perhaps even a more responsible world – waiting on the other side of the pandemic.
The existential anxiety around COVID-19 is great, and those who live paycheque-to-paycheque are especially worried. Others have the freedom to offer material help. This (again) is nothing new, but material help is particularly poignant at a time when so many people are afraid. Organisations like Australian Red Cross are reasonable places to give. Donation doesn’t have to flow into an online funnel or food shelf, either. Paying for someone’s else petrol, or delivering a bag of groceries to a friend, are big things that have a ripple effect.
Take care of yourself!
Of course, helping others only make sense if we value our own wellbeing. Diet, exercise, regular sleep patterns, and plenty of conversation with those closest to us – these are examples of self-care that puts us in a better frame of mind to help others.
COVID-19 will leave a mark on global history; but stories of people rendering help to one another will live on in the hearts of minds of us all. Better yet, we can live those stories day-by-day…