Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly. ~Charles Addams
Where to begin?
After three years of living in chaos, it’s hard to imagine having to endure anything more unsettling. But now we’re not imagining it. We’re living it, watching as the country literally shuts down to stave off the worst of a pandemic.
And how we respond in these times matters.
There are some who haven’t yet discovered that a self-focused life lived is wasted. You probably saw images of those folks in bars, at restaurants, laughing haughtily and posting cheeky comments on social media – as though they’ve somehow “won.”
But then there are others, like you and I. And those are the people I want to hold up right now.
A friend texted me images of the barren shelves at her local grocery store. In her next text she wondered whether it would be better to go to the Red Cross or to her local hospital to give blood.
Another friend texted me news of her children’s school closing. She followed the news with the question: how do we feed the children who rely upon free and reduced school lunches?
Still another sent me a facebook message – how can we support unhoused people right now? And what can we do for students who have been told not to go back to their dorms?
And I got a little choked up.
Let me tell you why.
Because this situation is different from the activism we’ve undertaken over the last three years. When we’ve fought for immigrant and asylum families, or for trans rights, or for reproductive freedom or for any of the umpteen other issue-based fights we’ve waged – we’ve generally fought those issues for others. Because sometimes we’re part of the impacted group, but more often than not, we weren’t the ones who were the target of this administration’s ire.
But this time, we’re all impacted. Every single one of us. We’ll all feel the impact differently of course. Some won’t be laid off. Others will. Some will have an easier time being laid off. Others will have an easier time staying away from people. We all know this will hit our most vulnerable people especially hard.
But for the first time there’s an issue that – quite literally – has impacted every single one of us in an immediate, visceral, and tangible way.
And still, by God, you’re helpers.
How can that be?
How can it be that, even now, when we have every right to be worried about what our lives will look like in three weeks, three months, six months – that your first reaction is to think of what this will do to others?
We all know Mr. Rogers’ quote – that in times of trouble you should look for the helpers, because there will always be people who rise to help others. But right now, I want you to recognize: that’s you, friend. That’s you.
That’s you, helping me. And it’s me, helping you. And it’s both of us helping our neighbors, our communities, the people we already know and the people we don’t and the people who hide from everyone.
And it has inspired me to tears.
I’d like to think that because we’ve spent so much time and energy over the last three years practicing active compassion, we’re more prepared for this challenge. That maybe our heart muscles are stronger and more flexible. That we’ve build our emotional endurance. That we’ve expanded our worlds and our minds …
And maybe the last three years have prepared us to be the helpers that we need to be for ourselves and for each other right now.
So let’s continue to be one another’s shoulders. One another’s helpers. Let’s continue to be kind. To be thoughtful. To be giving. And to model what we know the world can be.
Please take good care of yourself this week. I’ll be thinking of you.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the week of March 17
Tuesday: Call Your Senators!
There is a bill right now that will provide us some limited economic relief. It’s called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201). If you’re wondering what’s in the bill, how it could help you and your family, there’s a great explainer here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/16/paid-sick-leave-coronavirus-house-bill/?fbclid=IwAR3gMe1ErDMtqKCWbMuM1kxkBuEA8V0ZsSuLqgJgFpSAdbrgZOEYHhNtpLw
But the message for your Senators is simple: pass the dang bill.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. Has the Senator committed to voting for the coronavirus house bill? (If yes: Great. I’m glad to see the Senator acting so decisively in our interest.) (If no, or if “not sure,” The Senator must pass the Coronavirus House Bill immediately – without delay. Lives are literally at stake, and this is what leadership is about. It’s what public service is about. This is a national – and worldwide – emergency. I’ll remember what the Senator did in these days – and I won’t let my neighbors and fellow voters forget it.)
Wednesday: Crowdsourced list of mutual aid projects to participate in (and Get the coronavirus sanity guide (free)).
First, for those of you who are looking for places to plug in, here’s a link to a crowdsourced list of mutual aid projects (state by state, and international) that you can be part of: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dpMzMzsA83jbVEXS8m7QKOtK4nj6gIUk1U1t6P4wShY/preview#heading=h.dk3fsoccpsbc
Second, this morning I got a welcome resource right in my inbox. It’s called the Coronavirus Sanity Guide. Created by the meditation and mindfulness app Ten Percent, it’s chock full of resources that you might be looking for right now.
As they describe it: “In times like these, we need practical, actionable ways of coping with stress, fear, and anxiety. The meditations, podcasts, blog posts, and talks on this page will help you build resilience and find some calm amidst the chaos. We’re adding more resources as they’re created – so keep checking back. Please share this page widely. These resources are free for all.“
You should check it out, bookmark it, and share it widely.
Thursday: Resources for soon-to-be-homeschooling families
If you, like me, just found out that your kiddo will be staying at home with you at least until April, you might be looking for resources to keep said kiddo busy and learning. Or even if you don’t have kids, you might have friends or siblings or grown children who do – and who are freaking out. That’s why I wanted to share this next resource, which is a crowdsourced document including all kinds of free educational resources:
You’ll be able to find lesson plans, resources, worksheets – and even virtual tours of museums. Most are completely free. Please share widely!
Friday: Go Old School And Write It Down
The simplest piece of advice I’ve seen – and likely the most powerful – is to keep a journal. Starting today.
If you lived through the aftermath of 9/11, you no doubt have very intense and specific memories of that day and some of the days that followed. But I wish now that I had a journal of what was going through my mind then. What felt weighty. What life looked like as things happened.
Journaling is one way to create your personal history, so that when your grandchildren, or great-grandchildren ask you – what was it like? You can tell them. (And if you’re like me, it will help you remember what happened last week!)
Journaling can also help you cope with what is an incredibly stressful time. So get out a notebook, and find a pen. Take five minutes in the morning with your coffee and just … write. I think you’ll be glad you started.
WHEW! GO TEAM!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.