Tuesday, April 7, 2020

We're Isolated, but NOT Powerless

“How are you holding up?” That’s the standard question to ask one another these days as the COVID-19 virus continues to sweep across the planet. Unless you are a health care provider, grocery store employee, or have some other essential community role, the best thing to do for yourself and others is to stay home...or as some people put it, “do nothing.” But to do nothing feels like a cop-out. It makes me feel powerless.

My message to everyone is that we are not powerless! 

Even though the days seem to run together, every day we get to wake up and decide what we will to do to make it different and special. If you are an advocate, take heart that almost every advocacy tool we used before is available to us today! And beyond our advocacy, there is a lot that we can do for ourselves and others.

So, how am I holding up? I’m holding up by getting up every morning to ask myself three questions and try to do something about each one.

1) What can you do to take care of yourself?
Flight attendants tell us every time we board a plane that we must take care of ourselves before we can care for others. What works for airplane safety and oxygen masks, works for coronavirus isolation. Every day, try to do something that makes you happy/sane/stable even if it’s small. For me, that’s often exercise, but I’ll be honest in admitting that doesn’t always work. Sometimes, my self-care looks like a zoom call with friends and wine. Other times, it looks like video games and a margarita. One day, I just got really fed up with everything happening around me and retreated to take a bath and have a cry.

2) What can you do for someone locally?
Window scenes from our neighborhood "Bear Hunt"
There is so much need in all of our communities right now. Sheltering in place comfortably is a privilege. Families in poverty are running out of food as unemployment skyrocketed last month.

It’s both frustrating and overwhelming to think about all that need when we’d be a danger to the community if we physically went to provide help. What can we do?

That’s where ingenuity and creativity come in. Some things we can do are big and grand, but the right small gestures can be grand, too, when someone is lonely.

Some of my thoughts might inspire some of your own that you can share in the comments.

  • Sort books from your home to give away to neighborhood kids learning to read who can’t get to the library anymore. Sure, they have to keep them in the garage for a few days to make sure the virus isn’t living on them before reading, but it’s quicker than waiting for the library to open! We took a walk to drop them at the door of some friends and got that daily outdoor exercise in, too.
  • Organize a Teddy Bear Hunt in your neighborhood. We invited neighbors to put stuffed animals in their windows, so that the local kids (and us!) could have something fun to look for when taking walks. 
  • Send someone who is struggling with bills some grocery money via Paypal or Vinmo.
  • Open your windows and play an instrument, so your neighbors can hear. Live entertainment is scarce these days, so if you have a talent, share it!
  • If you can sew and have materials, make some face masks to give to neighbors.
  • Call/text someone who is lonely, especially seniors. Give Grandma a proper phone call!
  • Offer to pick up groceries for someone over 60 next time you’re going shopping for yourself to help them stay home and safe.
  • Offer to tutor a child (via computer) who might struggle with online school classes. 
  • Bring your kids something nice while they are in an online class. There might not be much in the house as far as snacks go, but even a glass of ice water can be thoughtful and supportive.
The possibilities are endless! What else can you think of that works for you? 

3) What can you do to change things nationally or globally?
The pandemic has exposed all the cracks in our national and global health systems. So, there's not shortage of things we can work on!

If you’re already an activist comfortable writing letters to the editor, this is an excellent time to put your thoughts out in the media about health systems or the effect of COVID-19 on people in poverty. If not, this can either be a convenient time to learn that skill or put in a daily phone call to Congress. Here are some tips for writing letters to the editor. 

Here are a few of my recommendations for issues to work on right now with links to help you take action:
  • U.S. Housing: Housing IS health care. You may never have have thought of it that way before, but it’s never been more clear that having a safe place of your own protects you from the elements, violence, viruses, and a lot of stress. Even before the outbreak families looking for affordable housing were in crisis. Please tell Congress that in the next virus response bill, they must take more action to help people keep a roof over their heads. This link from RESULTS has a media action called “Coronavirus exacerbates need for housing and nutrition assistance” to provide talking points for you to take this U.S. action. 
  • Global Health Systems: If we can “flatten the curve” on coronavirus infection, we may avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. But for many people living in nations with fewer resources, even a few critical cases will overwhelm their healthcare system. And there are others with little to no access to healthcare at all. Tell Congress to prioritize global health systems, alongside the domestic response, as we move forward together. People living in poorer settings must not bear the brunt of this pandemic. This link from RESULTS has a media action called “Virus reminds us that everyone needs access to health care” to provide talking points for you to take this U.S. action. 

I hope this blog might help someone reading it. But even if it’s just one or a few, it helped ME today just to write it!