I laughed at a meme a few weeks ago that said, “You know, I could really go for some ‘precedented’ times.”
Afterward, my anxious, over-thinking mind started pondering on what that truly meant – the specifics of the, “unprecedented times,” to which it was referring. I realized that my ability to laugh at that meme shined a glaring light at the relative comfort of my life during a mass pandemic. And that’s nothing to laugh at.
My husband and I kept our jobs. Our income was affected, but not enough to disrupt our lives. I have felt anxious about the uncertainty of schools reopening, travel plans being cancelled or delayed, and running out of toilet paper.
I have read heartbreaking statistics about the rise of domestic abuse during this pandemic. I have seen the emails from school districts promoting their free lunch program to everyone, worried about the children stuck at home without enough food to eat. I’ve listened to radio hosts give away laptops to children who have no way to participate in virtual learning, and then wondered about those who don’t even have the internet.
But in all of that suffering I’ve been only a distant observer.
I’ve read, I’ve listened, I’ve wondered. But I haven’t experienced any of it.
Can I truly call myself an ally if my support and solidarity stays in the comfort of my home?
Do I truly support equality if I’m not willing to face it with my own eyes, and not through a screen?
Am I willing to leave my comfort in order to comfort those in need?
The truth is no, I haven’t been willing to leave my comfort. But once I took a good hard look at myself, the quote “Once you know better, do better,” popped into my head.
So what does doing better look like in this situation?
When we lived in Virginia, the local moms’ Facebook group hosted an annual Holiday Secret Santa event. The moderators and admins of the Facebook group contacted local schools, churches, and social workers to identify families in need, and also asked the group members to submit any families that they knew could use support. Then they would create index cards with the age, gender, and needs of each child in the family, as well as a few wants or wishes, keeping the names anonymous. They assigned each family a number that would be written on the top of all cards of children in that family, post the cards in the Facebook group, and members of the group would comment with the number of the family they’d like to sponsor. The Facebook group accepted donations and gift wrap, tape, etc. when all of the families had been claimed. They also had a non-perishable food drive and grocery store gift card drive to give the families. They set a deadline for the gifts and supplies to be dropped off to them, then they’d dedicate a day to wrapping and delivering it all. It was truly a remarkable endeavor to be a part of, and the admins and moderators who ran this operation were truly incredible women.
Each year I’d look for a family that had a daughter around the same age as mine, and she would help me shop for her. Although the names were anonymous, some of the stories of these families were shared. And that was important. Because although we like to tell ourselves our security and safety is our own doing, life is fragile. All of those families experienced heartache and tragedy of some sort, and those two things do not discriminate. Any of us could get the call at any time that we’ve lost our partner. Any of us hear the news that our home is in the path of a natural disaster, or find out we’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness. And for those lucky enough to have not dealt with such tragedies, we must lift our suffering brothers and sisters.
So how do we do better? There are 3 months until Christmas. I’m a big proponent of saving and avoiding debt as much as possible, and I begin planning our savings strategy for the holidays early in the Fall. So first, I recommend you also start planning ahead financially for the holidays, and this will allow you to make a plan to save for the needs of your community.
Then, do some research. Call local schools, churches, and social workers to identify needs in your local area. Search your local Facebook community groups to see if any sort of organized efforts are already in effect and, if necessary, help out with or organize the efforts yourself. If you do a Google search for your county and then “community outreach” you may find organizations in your area. Also, call your local animal shelter to find out their needs, and make a plan to contribute there, as well. Hospitals sometimes have holiday events that you can contribute to, alsol.
But the real first step is to simply get still. Put your phone down and count your blessings. Consider the families who need your help, and that they are no different than you. Realize that simply re-posting empathetic images on social media is not going to translate to helping real people in need.
Make a vow to eliminate the screen between you and the suffering.
Then get to work.