I tend to agree with a piece in The Atlantic about adults distorting and abusing this advice from Mr. Rogers as a panacea rather than a call to action to create a more just world where children feel safe. Individual acts of charity and benevolence in the midst of horrific crisis can be practically useful and remind us of our best selves, but they do not accumulate into enough action to actually solve a problem like a worldwide pandemic.
Still, there’s a reasonable expectation that those of us who have skills will deploy them thoughtfully and with the intent to help. One of my skill sets is my training and education as a social worker and community organizer. Another is having this platform along with my social media channels to reach a few more folks than the typical person. I’ve been brainstorming with my friends and neighbors about assorted ways I can use these skills to offer some help.
So here’s what I got.
First, I set up two threads, one on Twitter and one on Facebook, for folx to drop Venmo, CashApp, PayPal links. Please add yours and donate if you can. I will keep promoting these supports. This is all in good faith, no vetting. The lists are getting huge so if you are looking for some way to help directly, this might be it. I’m just doing this because I have some reach on my social accounts.
Keep in mind, individual acts of charity have positive impact for the individuals involved, but no amount of personal charity that leads to spending can have a macro impact. The only entity that can help people right now is the federal government. It needs to replace their lost income and its the only entity with the resources to do that.
An economist said to me:
But think of this in the same way you would about recycling. Recycling like making a small donation is a very good thing. But even if everyone recycles it’s not really going to address the problem of global climate change. That requires bigger changes than individuals doing what they can will achieve.
One person asked for $13 to meet a very specific need. Others asked for concrete items like diapers, medication copays, etc. Individual acts of charity to help with these modest needs can help avoid that breakdown becoming a catastrophic loss.
Second, we created the NEW #ThingsToDo project to help kids have a way to help. We are posting those lists as they arrive. If you have kids who need something to do, take a look at the lists and consider submitting your own from your kids. Each list will generate a $10 donation to the Northside Food Pantry.
Fourth, we have the #SteelCitySnowflakes project, profiling local folks who are doing terrific things and ordinary things. Want to acknowledge or shout out someone you love and appreciate? Nominate them. We’ll send them a quick Q&A and give them an honorary Steel City Snowflake on our app. Don’t underestimate the impact of a little recognition.
Fifth, I am making an effort each day to personally connect with people in my life via text, email, direct message, etc. I tend to share amusing photos from our household critters – I text my niblings, sister-in-law, friends, neighbors, and Laura when she’s out of the house. I reach out to journalists whom I know personally and my friends who healthcare workers, veterinary staff, out of work and more. Conversely, I take the time to respond to people inquiring about my life and family. It is easy to tell myself “I have to do these very important project tasks” and ignore the interpersonal connections. That’s dangerous. I’m still an individual person who needs human contact.
Sixth, we remember that life does go on. We continue to publish our traditional content such as this post. If there’s a topic you want us to tackle, drop us a line.
Next, I stay informed. We watch the evening news, both local and national. I’m reading my routine news sources, monitoring Twitter and Facebook. I do tune it out when I need to do so. I watch General Hospital and other streaming shows. We listen to music, read, etc. We play with our cats. I have some projects I’m doing around the house. But I value good information so I’m going to watch Rachel Maddow every night. It is fine if you make another choice.
Eighth on the list is really just being a resource. I’ve had countless messages from folks navigating social service systems or having to seek those supports for the first time. I”ve had people sending me news tips that require me to find the best journalist to respond. I am a brainstormer by nature so I send my ideas to people who might find them worthwhile and a few are panning out into actual projects. In one case a mom contacted me asking for name change information for her adult trans daughter. She acknowledged that it wasn’t likely to get very far right now. I asked my lawyer friend who sent me the intake link and that young woman now at least got the ball rolling on something that is very essential to her welfare. Hopefully, it sustains her until the legal system resumes. You can reach out to me. I’ll try my best.
Ninth, we are tying our best to invest our resources in our small business neighbors. We bought take out twice this week from local Asian eateries. We bought soap from Pip and Lola’s. We shop for groceries from a local chain (not small business, but local.) I helped a restaurant manager navigate some social media issues. Laura just suggested we buy a series of gift certificates from our favorite eateries to use down the road. I’m doing Q&A’s where possible to promote these folx.
Finally, we have recruited some new guest and contributing bloggers. This will amplify underrepresented points of view and perspectives. Some may post once, others more often. No one is getting paid. They are creating content because they value you.
I don’t profess to do any of this perfectly, but we are trying. I’m also juggling my own illness and a pair of sick kittens so this wheel of helpful momentum could grind to a halt at any moment. That’s why we need institutional and systemic solutions from our government.
Other ideas on how to help? Feedback? Leave a comment.
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