Hey, fam. These are rough times. We’re weathering a major crisis all while trying to stay home and stay calm. If you’re someone who prefers to be out in your community during times of strife, the command to stay home can be a tough one and it can feel totally useless. (Even though it’s not. Stay home. For real.) But even if you’re someone who is perfectly fine and able to stay at home right now, the widespread calls for help can easily become overwhelming.
In times like this, when the trouble is everywhere, I find it best to look at what I can actually control and prioritize my impact. So here are seven small but impactful ways you and your family can help your local community right now, whether you’re a parent, working from home, or just barely getting by.
1. Stay home
Yes, I know. But right now, it is your absolute patriotic duty to stay home. Do not underestimate it. Clean your house. Organize those files. Learn to bake bread. All those projects you never had time for? Time granted. And repeat after me: The less I go out and expose others, the sooner we’ll all be able to go out together again. And if you’re unable to stay home because of work or caregiving responsibilities, wash your hands and give yourself some grace (and distance from others.)
2. Spend wisely
If you are lucky enough to still be getting paid during this time, consider where your income could go that would be spent going out. Think of your favorite restaurant, your most cherished indie shop, especially those places that have closed in order to protect staff and the public. Involve the kiddos and have an imaginary outing with your child! You can recreate your favorite things to do out in the community—visit a bookstore, go for ice cream, visit a local park. Keep track of the amount of money you might have spent on your outing and then donate the amount to the businesses or spaces. Bonus: if you had tickets for an event that is now canceled, consider opting to donate the ticket cost, rather than asking for a refund. This is huge.
3. Check on your loved ones and neighbors
Don’t wait for them to reach out—not everyone does, especially when they’re struggling. Just reaching out can be enough to save someone. And don’t forget your neighbors. Now is a great time to join any neighborhood Facebook pages or NextDoor groups. Take special care in checking on your elderly and high-risk neighbors. If you can’t call or email them and you’re not in mandated quarantine, try knocking on their door (with washed hands and social distance.) Leave a letter in their mailbox with your contact information. (Have the kids add their own spin to the letter too! Your elderly and isolated neighbors will adore this.) Ask what they need and leave the door open.
4. Think of the children
If you’re a parent or caregiver, your number one job right now is to keep your kiddos safe and secure. Establishing a daily routine does just that. Set specific times for meals, play, and learning, and stick to it as closely as possible. Most importantly, READ. If your child’s schooling has been interrupted, the best way you can keep them on track is to read. Read to them, read with them, anything and everything. Children who maintain strong reading skills tend to stay on track with their learning from primary grades all the way up to high school and beyond. You don’t need to recreate school—just making reading a household priority is enough. But the nation’s teachers and librarians have your back—here’s an incredible list of free and streaming educational resources made just for your family.
5. Join or renew your memberships to local non-profits
Make a small list of non-profits in your community that do work you believe in above all else. Public library foundations, arts collectives, inter-faith communities that support the marginalized and vulnerable in your community—now is a great time to set up a sustaining membership, make a healthy donation, and/or subscribe to their mailing lists and preach their gospels.
6. If you are healthy and not at high-risk, consider donating your time to your community
You can reach out to the organizations in your community to ask how to help, or you can seek out opportunities via Volunteer Match. There may be many virtual volunteer opportunities available! Don’t underestimate your own power to strike out on your own—here in East Nashville, we have a shared spreadsheet between neighborhoods where the sick and high-risk can request help or errand runs that healthy neighbors can provide for them. All it took to get started was a post on our community’s Facebook page.
7. Advocate for the vulnerable
Now is a great time to write or call your House and Senate representatives and implore them to pass emergency legislation that will provide economic relief to this crisis. If your state or city hasn’t mandated closing public places, email your council member or state rep asking them to do so. Call on your local government to send city employees home with full pay, especially those that make social distancing an impossibility like libraries, community centers, and courts. This is a great task for your kids to engage in as well. Teaching civic duty, especially in a crisis like this, is a lesson they will remember for years to come.
We can’t all do everything. But certain people focusing on our certain strengths can create a collective impact that will help our whole communities get through this crisis.