An Antidote to Helplessness

I have three windows open, but I’d be lying if I said I could see clearly right now. Each window features so many tabs that the tightly packed icons have been rendered nearly indistinguishable. It’s a decent reflection of my frenetic brain state these last few days.

Many of our lives — mine included — were upended these last two weeks. We went from commuting to our offices to cordoning off “home offices” inside cramped apartments, and from rarely giving thought to hand washing to doing so every chance we get for fear of hurting ourselves and others around us. Those are just two of the most obvious behavioral changes we’ve had to make.

It’s a testament to our ability to adapt that so many of us found normalcy in shifting swiftly to remote work, living in lockdown, and taking self-quarantine measures. For me, however, it only heightens an awareness of the invisible lines that divide the privileged and the less so. If I’m being honest, I feel guilty and insecure. Because while I continue to work with little business continuity risk, I have a parent whose small business was forced to close, friends who have been furloughed, and family and friends left to unduly risk their lives as healthcare practitioners.

Thankfully, times of crisis have a funny way of bringing things into focus. Amidst my guilt and fear, I am also hopeful. Before us is an unprecedented opportunity to take care of each other, to prioritize our loved ones, and to give back to our communities. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the headlines and feeling small and worried that you’re not doing enough, you’re not alone. We have a long way to go before this pandemic subsides, and an even longer time before our global economy regains its footing. But instead of giving into helplessness, I’m choosing hope and the effective actions that rise from it. 

If you’re asking yourself, “How can I make a difference when so many things are broken?” start small. Even one text saying, “How’s it going? Thinking of you.” can brighten someone’s whole day in trying times. Here is a shortlist of actions I’ve taken and been inspired by as antidotes to helplessness, one tiny act of kindness at a time. If any of them move you and you are in a position of privilege, I encourage you to give (or anything similar). In moments like these, even the smallest acts of compassion will have ripple effects.


🙏 Support your community and beyond

  • My younger sister is a nurse at one of the most preeminent cancer hospitals in the U.S. Two weeks ago, her floor was designated the coronavirus floor, so for now and the foreseeable future, she is on the frontlines of coronavirus care without the requisite masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). We can do our part by (1) not hoarding them for ourselves and (2) donating to organizations like shipping and logistics startup Flexport to support the sourcing and transport of these critical supplies. Mask a Hero NY is also helping connect those who can donate mask supplies with hospital workers in need.  
  • Volunteer to serve meals to our sick, elderly, and vulnerable. In San Francisco, there are great organizations like Meals on Wheels, Project Open Hand, or any of the number of non-profits or food banks listed here, all of which need volunteers, supplies, or funds.
  • There may never be a better time to foster a shelter pet. Is this to help a precious dog or for me to get emotional support? Why not both, and I’m certainly keeping my fingers crossed to hear back from San Francisco’s SPCA and Muttville.

🤝 Find strength in solidarity

  • Throw a virtual party. Finding ways to connect is more important than ever, given social isolation and loneliness can lead to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions. South Korea popularized virtually eating together, and self quarantine shouldn’t stop you from having all sorts of virtual get togethers: happy hour, playing Catan together, or even celebrating your birthday (🎉, Lee!). For those in San Francisco and beyond, I’ll be hosting another virtual block party hosted on Icebreaker soon! Message me here if you’d like to join.
  • Practice #PhysicallyDistantSociallyClose by joining new tribes. Redditers were way ahead of us when it comes to finding hyper-connected online communities revolving around niche interests. A few places to get started:
    • Join a Book Club (built by the avid readers and builders behind Highlighter)
    • Quarantine Together (supported by the wonderful InterIntellect community)
    • Check out Instagram Live videos by your favorite Influencers. I’ve had tons of fun joining Jessica Olie for yoga practice, tuning into friends’ Live sessions featuring their personal passions like baking and tarot reading, and sending love to local SF choreographers who are making the most of this quarantine by hosting their own IG Live dance classes (In fact, now is a great opportunity to take online classes from teachers and choreographers all over the world who wouldn’t normally offer them.)

💸 Pay it forward

  • For food deliveries or groceries, tip generously. Before local stores and my laundromat closed, I purchased gift cards to use for when they re-open. You can still support local businesses by purchasing gift cards here, here, and here (last one is for SF only).
  • Those who are already the most vulnerable will be disproportionately hit by this economic lockdown. These are the individuals and families without a financial safety net, the ability to WFH, without safe homes, access to affordable health care or education, etc. While our government leaders, economists, and lawmakers debate an economic stimulus, if you’re able, a few organizations worth checking out and supporting:
    • The One Fair Wage Emergency Fund provides cash assistance to service workers.
    • Donate the money you would have spent on your daily commute or coffee habit to Cancel Corona, a collection of nonprofits supporting the communities hurt by coronavirus. 
    • My friend Lyndsey wrote up her own helpful guide on all the ways you can pay it forward (and stay sane).

💕 Take care of yourself

  • With limitations on being outside, it’s important to be intentional about getting enough movement in your day to maintain both physical strength and mental acuity. Tons of gyms have started to release online classes, but here are two of my favorite free workout resources:
    • Melissa Wood Health for short-but-tough workouts using only your own body weight. She offers a 7-day free trial and a few free flows on her YouTube.
    • HIIT workouts courtesy of former Australian Pole Vaulter Amanda Bisk will have you working up a sweat.
  • Introverts, rejoice! Want a new book to read? Here are my recommendations. Need something new to watch? Binge watch your celebrity hero on MasterClass. Need a moment of distraction-free productivity?  Try FocusMate or Focused. Been meaning to brush up on your cooking skills? Why not try a new covid-19-ready recipe or learn all 59 ways to cook an egg. Want to learn a new instrument and support out-of-work musicians? Check out MaestroMatch.

Nothing is too small, and every donation of our time, money, and mindshare counts. Thank you to the many friends who inspired me to give and to continue giving. That said, we’re only scratching the surface of what will require massive action from our local and federal governments.

In the meantime, “you are more powerful than you think.” So let me know in what ways you’re giving back, other ways I may be able to contribute or highlight other efforts big or small, and our collective efforts will help strengthen and rebuild our communities.

And since I have you: If you’re healthy, stay healthy. Call your loved ones. Wash your hands. Be kind.

💕

Special thank you to Jen, Mason, and Phillip for reading earlier drafts, and to the friends who moved me with their ways of giving back during this crisis: Roy, Lisa, Aleka, Shawn, Nitin, Paula, Noah, and many others.

 

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