There are these two terrible, competing realities happening at the same time right now: people need help more than ever, and we are the most limited when it comes to helping others than we’ve ever been. We all are. I want to reach out to people and touch them figuratively at a time when I literally am not allowed to do so. People need each other to survive. I remember once, in a science class in middle school, our teacher was educating us on the basic things humans need to survive. We guessed the obvious ones like food, shelter, and water. Then my teacher said we’d missed one. I asked what it was. He started to take slow steps towards me. Closer and closer until he was standing on my toes. I still didn’t get it. “Space” he said. “We need space. Think about it.” Ah yes, he’s right. It’s the reason Indiana Jones fears for his life when a boulder chases him down a hallway – there’s only room for one of them there. There isn’t enough space for them both.
But I may argue something else that we need to survive: not too much space! And right now, we have too much of it. We are forced to stay apart. We have plenty of space and yet, we are finding that that actually poses a risk to our wellbeing. So much of what we want and need to do relies on our ability to come together. And now we can’t. As a direct result, a lot of people are in need. People are suffering, because we can’t come together, and then, for that same reason, we are limited in how we can help each other. What a terrible cycle.
If you feel stuck when it comes to how you can help others right now, don’t. There are ways you can touch each other, without actually touching each other.
Give a colleague a vacation day
Maybe you have more vacation days stacked up than you will get around to using, and know a colleague who could desperately use one. Maybe a single working mom who already burned all her days staying home to take care of her sick kids. She never got to use a vacation day to take care of herself. Ask your supervisor if you can gift her one of your days.
Know of a vulnerable person who shouldn’t go to the store, but perhaps can’t afford to hire someone to do it for them? Send them groceries. Or pick them up and deliver them to their front step. Or email them an e-gift card for InstaCart or Grubhub, or another service that can bring them food.
Handle a customer service call
Maybe an elderly relative is having issues with her Internet, or an insurance claim. She struggles to understand the menu options when she calls the customer service line. The hold times are long. She doesn’t understand what the representatives say to her. Make this call for her. So long as you have her authorization and the necessary information, you can take this task off her hands.
Clean up an elderly neighbor’s lawn
Do you notice a neighbor’s lawn looking a little worse for the wear? Maybe they’re older, or currently aren’t well, or can’t afford to pay a landscaper right now. Do their yard work for them. You don’t even have to go in their home and interact with them to do so. Seeing their yard looking lovely will really lift their spirits.
Negotiate for someone
Perhaps a family member or friend isn’t great at negotiating, and you are. It can be hard to know how to negotiate, and if it’s a skill you have, use it on behalf of your loved ones so they aren’t taken advantage of. Maybe it’s your friend negotiating a better rate on her car lease as she’s lost income due to COVID-19. Handle that call for her if she can’t.
Leave great reviews
You can leave great reviews for services or businesses you’ve patronized, either during the quarantine or before. If there is a restaurant doing takeout right now that you love, sing their praises online. If there is a woman giving an online workout class that you think is great, leave her a great review. If you can’t afford to patronize the business a lot, you can help them get more business by doing this.
Share about/promote someone’s work
Promote someone’s work. Did your friend put out a book? Is your friend selling masks? It means so much to someone when you promote their business, as it’s totally self-less on your part. They can only do so much to get the word out about their work. But when someone else boosts it, people take that promotion seriously.
Order a delivery meal
Order a delivery meal for somebody nearby. Perhaps you know a busy set of parents who really deserve a night of no cooking. Or you know someone who really can’t afford to order delivery, and lives on food stamps. But you know they’re burnt out on cooking. Send them a tasty delivery meal.
Leave a great tip
If you order delivery or takeout, use InstaCart, or take an online class that’s donation-based, leave a great tip/donation. You know that people need it right now. And, seeing that big tip also does something for their soul: it shows them there are people who care about their wellbeing, and that encourages them to continue to do a good job, so hopefully others will give them great tips.
Spread awareness of someone’s cause
If you are aware of someone who needs help paying for medication, needs help paying for food, needs help paying for a sick pet, needs help paying for a sick relative’s care, or is doing something great for the community via raised funds, spread the word. Again, when you can’t give much money, you can still help them raise money by spreading the word.
Clean up your neighborhood
Put on gloves and a mask of course. But, consider helping to clean up your neighborhood. Are there a bunch of plastic bags and beer cans on the sidewalks? Piles of food cartons by the riverbank? Consider putting on gloves and a mask and picking them up. It will really uplift others to see that you do that, and you may inspire others to do the same.
Leave goods out for those who need them
Create a little table outside your home with goods for those who need them. Non-perishable food, water, small bottles of hand sanitizer. Put out a sign stating that people should take what they need, and leave what they don’t. You may be surprised at how much people respect those parameters.
Leave encouraging notes out
Just leave some encouraging words out in the world. Get some chalk and leave lovely words in the culs-de-sac driveway—whatever comes to mind for you. Maybe you can leave a nice note on a neighbor’s porch. Or you can hold an encouraging sign outside of a hospital treating COVID-19 patients.
Give out gloves
Buy gloves and give them out to those who need them. Leave a little package on neighbor’s doorsteps. If you see someone going grocery shopping without them, keep spare ones on you to hand out. Leave some for a homeless encampment near you. Or for an essential worker who you know doesn’t have enough protective gear.
Call and check in
Keep a list of individuals who may be isolated or depressed during this time. Check in on them regularly. You have no idea how a regular phone call can bring someone who is very down back from a dark place, into the light. Think of the elderly in nursing homes who can’t take visitors right now, or even friends who live alone in remote places.