Kindness, Compassion, and Community in the Time of Corona

03/25/2020

by Reyna Eisenstark

A few years ago, I was in a long line at the grocery store when I saw an older woman a few people ahead of me whose credit card had been declined. She looked a bit lost and confused, but within seconds, the man next to her (a complete stranger) handed his card to the cashier. “Put it on my card,” he said. Just a simple act of kindness. I waited until I got into my car before I started crying. 

I thought of this incident recently while noticing that so many people are showing so much kindness to each other right now. Perhaps you saw or heard about a Twitter thread in which Texas author Shea Serrano asked people if they had bills they couldn't pay at this time, and told them to send him them their Venmo information. Eventually he reached the maximum Venmo allowed for the day. Then random strangers started offering money to help those that had posted. “I got this one!” someone would write, posting a Venmo receipt to a grateful recipient. 

It would seem that in times of crisis, we become kinder toward one another; we hold each other up. Not only that, but generosity seems to be a natural human trait. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that“the psychological reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts.” The researchers concluded that the link between giving to others and our well-being “was significant in every region of the world, and it was not affected by other factors among those surveyed, such as income, social support, perceived freedom and perceived national corruption.”

Additional studies have shown that volunteering and helping others is actually good for us. In a Carnegie Mellon University study, researchers found a link between volunteering and a lowered risk of high blood pressure. There is evidence that generosity toward others results in a heightened sense of well-being, lower rates of depression, and a healthier immune system. Also, when you turn your focus on to other people instead of yourself, you can end up feeling more grateful for what you already have.  

If you are looking for a way to help, to share some kindness, there are things that can you do right now that will make a difference. 

Support local businesses.

A lot of small businesses have closed and are worried that they might never open again. To support them, you can buy gift cards that can be used at a later date. You can support local restaurants by buying food to take out; many closed restaurants that never offered takeout or delivery before are now offering these services, and some are offering online orders and home delivery. 

You can also reschedule an appointment that you had to cancel, like a haircut or manicure. Local stores will be relieved to see that they will still have business when they reopen.  

Donate to a food bank.

Many food banks need donations of nonperishable goods and other products. Before you donate something, make sure you find out exactly what they need. You can find your local foodbank at Feeding America.

Meals on Wheels also needs on-call volunteers to help deliver meals to their clients. A volunteer shift takes about an hour, and you can sign up on their website

Give blood.

Due to the outbreak, hundreds of blood drives have been canceled, and there is a serious blood shortage. You can go to the Red Cross website, enter your zip code, and see where and when upcoming blood drives in your neighborhood will be held. You can also read more on the site about how the Red Cross is making blood drives safer during this time. 

Reach out to your neighbors, family, and friends.

Now is the time to check in with everyone you know. Does someone need an extra meal or a delivery of groceries? How is your elderly neighbor who lives alone doing? Spend more time on the phone and video chats with your friends and family. It can be so comforting to hear a familiar voice when you can’t spend time with many people. 

These things can help us feel like we’re all in this together—and we are. Let’s all pitch in and do what we can. We’ll get through this. 

Reyna Eisenstark is a freelance writer living in Chatham, New York. She writes a blog inspired by stories from her life.

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