The opportunity for kindness in the wake of COVID-19 - Generocity Philly

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Mar. 16, 2020 9:00 am

The opportunity for kindness in the wake of COVID-19

"This isn’t a call to ignore precautions or put ourselves at risk. It is a call to be smart and caring, which are not mutually exclusive in this situation," says guest columnist Christine Simiriglia of Pathways to Housing PA.

We must reaffirm that all of us have human value and all of us deserve care, says guest columnist Christine Simiriglia.

(Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay)

This guest post was written by Christine Simiriglia, president and CEO at Pathways to Housing PA.
It is common to feel anxious and powerless during widespread emergency situations. It is also common to stock up or even hoard essentials if one has the means.

During the current pandemic, the message seems to be “stay away from people,” giving us an excuse to isolate our marginalized neighbors even more and to build our personal walls even higher.

In the last four decades we have seen the erosion of community and the emergence of “self.” We don’t know our neighbors. We don’t feel a sense of responsibility for each other. We focus on ourselves and our immediate families, often to the detriment of others that we might have the ability to support.

Let’s choose to be better and do more. Let’s choose to not be powerless and instead, be heroes. We all have the capacity to be someone’s hero and in the next few months, that could mean the difference between life and death. Let’s not isolate ourselves to the point where we’re not helping others.

“Anytime there’s something new, particularly when we can’t see it or feel it or taste it, it can create increased anxiety,” says Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist and professor at Duke University School of Medicine. “But it can help reduce people’s worries to know that there are real things we can do.”

This isn’t a call to ignore precautions or put ourselves at risk. It is a call to be smart and caring, which are not mutually exclusive in this situation. These simple steps can help protect you and those around you, and they can also reduce feelings of powerlessness.

Take precautions

First of all, wash your hands. it’s the easiest ways to avoid the spread of infectious disease.

Other precautions include: avoid touching your face, stay home when you’re actually sick, and clean surfaces that you touch often, like your phone and your laptop.

If you encounter someone who is sick, stay a safe distance away from them. If you’re in a position to do so, recommend that they not be out in public if they are ill.

Prepare — but don’t over-stockpile

Having necessities on hand, if you can afford them, is a necessity. If your community asks people to stay home to reduce the spread of the virus, you and your family will need to have things like food, toiletries, and medications available to you.

Expect delivery services to be overwhelmed and unable to keep up with demand, so do your shopping now. You should plan to have enough nonperishable food for two to three weeks, along with any prescriptions you need and basic over-the-counter medications.

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When going shopping, check on elderly, vulnerable, or low income people that you know — and if you have the means — please ensure that they have some basic necessities as well. Don’t forget your local food pantries!

When doing your shopping, it’s incredibly important to remember not to buy too much. For example, masks are not necessary for most healthy people, but they’re being purchased so quickly that the institutions that actually need them, like hospitals and medical facilities, and are running out and can’t access more — which could directly affect the health of people in those institutions.

In addition, stockpiling (hoarding) makes it harder for low-income people, many of whom don’t have access to online ordering or transportation, to find what they need. Gather enough supplies for you and your family, and leave the rest for those that truly need it.

Confront racism and xenophobia

People have been using the coronavirus, which first sickened people in China, as an opportunity to spread racism and xenophobia by framing Asian people as the dangerous face of contagious disease. There have been numerous reports of discrimination and assault against Asian people since the onset of the Coronavirus. Chinese restaurants and other businesses are essentially being boycotted by the uninformed, and that behavior is unacceptable.

What we can do is check our own biases and follow recommendations from public health officials. Do not just avoid businesses or neighborhoods just because a certain ethnic or racial group lives there.

Buy from Asian businesses in your area as a show of support and solidarity, which is something that government officials have done by visiting Chinatowns in recent weeks.

And for goodness sake, if you witness discrimination or even assault, call it out. If possible, do something about it: intervene, report what you see, or support the victim(s).

Reach out to people who are at higher risk

The virus’ appearance as most deadly in older people and those with underlying medical conditions creates a dangerous attitude of “us” and “them”. It relegates people who have chronic illness and disabilities, and older adults, to a category of people that matter less.

These are our neighbors, people in our communities, and our families. We must reaffirm that all of us have human value and all of us deserve care.

Those who experience anxiety and depression may be feeling the mental health impact of living in fear of a global pandemic. You can offer resources like the Disaster Distress Helpline — as well as, if possible, taking a break from the news. And stay in touch, because having someone to talk to, rationally, can make all the difference.

Begin to plan ahead for how you can stay connected with people if they are quarantined or isolated. Organize a checking in plan as a church group, community organization, or group of neighbors, whether its dropping off supplies, calling, video chatting, or streaming a service or meeting online.

Be mindful of those economically impacted and remember these issues when you vote

Don’t forget about how this is affecting:

  • Those without paid leave
  • The millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans
  • The kids who will go hungry with school closures (thankfully, Philadelphia will still provide meals to students even if schools close)
  • Those without access to transportation in need of goods and services

Be well, my friends, and share what is good in your life with others.

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