These are trying times. Tensions are running high because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left thousands dead and almost 400,000 sick worldwide. Grocery store shelves are emptying, schools are closing and officials are urging many to stay inside.
In times of crisis, a timeless quote from the late Fred Rogers tends to emerge again and again on social media: "Look for the helpers."
His mother reminded him to find these people in times of tragedy and anxiety, and it continues to ring true because of the man who made the comment.
"You can always find people who are helping," he said. Fred Rogers died in 2003.
As the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to shape Americans' daily lives – affecting how, when and where we work, if at all, getting sick or anxious from the seemingly endless deluge of bad news; worrying if our families are affected – it's easy to feel like your individual actions may not matter in the grand scheme of things.
But consider being a good neighbor – and help your community. It can help alleviate any feelings of helplessness you may face as the virus continues to spread worldwide.
Here's how to make an impact in your community with a few tangible actions:
Plenty of organizations and charities – those in your community, as well as those that serve globally – are looking for monetary support. Charity Navigator has compiled a list of trustworthy multinational charities to donate to, and food banks, shelters and other charities in your area certainly need financial aid. Beyond that, there are plenty of people struggling to make ends meet, with coronavirus affecting their employment, some of whom have set up GoFundMe campaigns.
If you do order delivery, make sure to add a couple of extra bucks to your usual tip. Not all service, health care and retail workers have the privilege of working from home – or even calling in sick. Also, business may be slowing down wherever you go out to eat or drink due to the coronavirus, so some cash goes a long way in ensuring their livelihood, and ensuring that your favorite businesses stay open in the long run.
Buy a couple of gift cards
You may not want to grab delivery right now, which is understandable given the heightened anxiety about coronavirus transmission. But an easy way to support small businesses in your community is to buy a few gift cards online for a restaurant or shopping spree in the near-future. Plenty of businesses have websites that offer this feature, and Gannett, the owner of USA TODAY, has recently launched a website that expedites the process for businesses and customers. Visit supportlocal.usatoday.com for more.
Be kind to people working
A little kindness can go a long way. Don't take out your anxiety and stress on someone working the cash register, or a pharmacist looking to help you fill necessary prescriptions. They're trying to help you out – and are dealing with hundreds of frazzled people.
Donate resources to food banks, shelters
Donations to food banks are always helpful, but make sure not to donate expired foods. Check in with your local food banks and shelters to see what items they may need – and donate accordingly.
How to help hospitals amid the face mask shortage
Masks and other protective gear is also in short supply for the health care workers who need them the most. The viral hashtag #GetUsPPE — short for "personal protective equipment" — has evolved into a full-blown website, listing ways that people with spare medical equipment or skills to produce their own can help during this pandemic.
Hospitals and medical centers need N95 respirators, surgical masks, protective googles, gloves, face shields and disinfectant wipes. Here's a list of donation sites.
If you're a business or part of the maker community, you can get involved through 3D printing, manufacturing and sewing. Read more here.
Let someone into your home
As colleges nationwide have shut down in light of coronavirus pandemic, there are plenty of young students who are getting displaced and may not be able to fly back home due to cost or family reasons. Students at some schools with these mandates have set up shared online spreadsheets that let individuals volunteer their homes and other resources to stranded students. If you have the capacity, consider letting a college student into your home while they wait out their school's mandated breaks.
Here are some instances of people exhibiting true kindness and generosity – being "helpers," if you will – despite these trying times.
Brooke Felts, a first-generation alumni of Denison University in Granville, Ohio, understands how hard it is to support yourself as a working college student.
So when she got word that her alma mater was requiring students to leave campus, she knew how that could affect students who might not have anywhere to go or money to spare.
Felts put her name down in a shared online document made by Denison students listing community members willing to offer housing, employment, travel funds and other support for displaced students. She offered a wealth of things: two bedrooms, plus food, internet service, storage for items that students can’t take home and use of a car if needed.
“With things being uncertain, I think that it’s always important to help in whatever way you can,” Felts said.
– Jennifer Smola, The Columbus Dispatch
He's the heart and soul of one New Jersey community, says his town's mayor.
Jayden Perez, 11, and his family will donate over 1,000 hand sanitizer sprays to the Woodland Park school district, fire department, police department and library amid concerns over coronavirus.
"He was concerned that some students didn't have sanitizer because they were selling out everywhere," said his mother, Ana Rosado. They ordered sanitizer in bulk in February, before the crisis hit the state in March.
Perez is also planning on donating hand sanitizer to neighbors and family members.
He has a charitable streak: In 2017, Jayden organized a toy drive for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and he collected over 1,000 toys for the children affected.
– Anthony Zurita, Bergen Record
Courtney Igne, a resident of Mansfield, Massachussetts, was feeling anxious over the coronavirus pandemic. She told WBZ-TV in Boston that she had some spare time, given that her company gave her the go-ahead to work from home.
"If I’m anxious, certainly there are other people around here who are also more anxious because they might have cancer or they’re immunocompromised or they’re elderly,” she told WBZ-TV.
Igne posted in a Facebook group offering to help older or immunocompromised people grocery shop, which sparked a wave of other do-gooders in her area volunteering their time.
"I’d really appreciate if someone did that for me if I were in that situation," she said to WBZ-TV.
Kindness can be demonstrated in the smallest of ways.
For Janelle Schenderlein and her 7-year-old son, Jaxon, it was with a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Schenderlein was short $3 for her purchase at a Publix in Fort Meyers, Florida, which she needed to help clean her home. The woman behind her in the line offered to take it off her hands so they wouldn't hold up the queue.
As the Schenderleins were walking out the door, the woman — a nurse — gave it to her.
"She said she was a nurse and that I have children and that I needed it," Schenderlein said. "I was moved to tears."
As they drove home, they talked about paying it forward.
— Stacey Henson, Fort Myers News-Press
Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote