Just a couple of weeks ago, when the coronavirus outbreak still seemed distant, I didn’t think the panic would hit Denver as hard it did places like Washington. But I witnessed it myself when, while staring at empty shelves, another shopper informed me that the nearby Target had been cleaned out of supplies for three days. Those of us who live in, or have family in, dense cities, are already seeing the COVID-19 caseload rising. But for many of us, it still seems like a hypothetical — `a reason to worry, and to instinctually act to protect our families. That means we still have a chance to decide whether we will act for the public good.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Selfishness has indeed been involved in spreading our current pandemic. You see it in the videos of young devil-may-care Spring Breakers in Miami. You also see it in the stockpiling goods (a panic response but also a privilege that many don’t have — including folks who actually may need to do so). While online retailers like Amazon are working around the clock to address orders, there are still many who rely on stores being stocked in order to purchase what little they can manage (see: the over half a million individuals who are homeless, many of which live in my neighborhood and shop at my currently half-empty King Soopers).
Elsewhere, stories like this one out of Page Six about New York's elite hiding out in their Hamptons homes, or this one from The Guardian on how the uber-rich are flocking to private, underground bunkers, set up a very good reason for rural Americans, in particular, to feel like this is an us-versus-them situation. And, yes, the monied celebrities who thought that they could sing our way to peace and safety had it somewhat wrong, but what we need right now more than ever is action in the form of generosity — no matter how other people are acting.
There are some people out there being generous with their time, money, and supplies, practicing the creative altruism Dr. King and so many others have touted in the face of adversity. Here in Denver, people in our community have created a Facebook group (now over 5,000 members strong) where people are banding together to help fill in the gaps in care and resources. I’ve seen posts by a local chef who is baking bread at home for those who can’t find any, folks offering their extra baby wipes and formula for parents in need, and others offering info on where to find specific supplies and more.
Julie Schumacher of Oak Park, Illinois also shares how a local Facebook group in her area is doing their part to help support the local medical community.
“A woman took it upon herself to crowd raise in our group. (She) then uses that money to ask a local bakery or restaurant to create a big spread for a local hospital or healthcare facility. Pretty amazing!” says Schumacher.
There are other examples too, like this butcher in the UK delivering meat to folks in isolation, and this contractors’ association who donated flowers from a cancelled event to bring cheer to a nursing home, and an NBA player donating funds to help arena workers survive while the season is on pause. And then there are companies like Verizon and Comcast vowing to keep wifi connectivity going for folks who may be unable to pay bills at this time, Darden restaurants offering paid sick leave for employees, and Starbucks extending “catastrophe pay” for their employees as well. We even have some millionaires and billionaires donating large sums of money for supplies and the development of a vaccine, like Giorgio Armani, Bill Gates, and Jack Ma. These are the kinds of responses we actually need at this time, and we can only hope that more individuals, corporations, and hopefully governments continue to toe the line.
As panic isolates so many of us, generosity is the thing to help us get through it (especially in the long term, which this will undoubtedly be). So keep calm, carry on, and for the love of everything, stay home and always wash your hands.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.