Be A Helper

March 30, 2020

Photo credit: Saira Banu Kianes

You are scared. Your friends are scared. Your family is scared. The world is scared with you.

If you aren’t an essential worker then you are probably (or should be) home. Events have been canceled. The kids’ crazy schedules have come to a halt. And you have a lot of nervous energy. What should you do? Be a helper.

The Helper’s High

In a time where everyone is likely to experience sadness and depression, helping others can actually make you feel better. It’s normal for people to experience a wide range of emotions as we face a situation that most of us never imagined. It’s OK to feel down and to feel anxious. However, there are ways to lessen these emotions and make a difference in the world.

In Perfect Pairings: The Art of Connecting People, I talk about a phenomenon known as The Helper’s High. Scientific studies have shown that helping other people and be a volunteer positively affects the body and the brain. Acts of kindness release endorphins in the brain that are similar to exercise and anti-depressant medication. In fact, not only does volunteering immediately impact the brain, but over time, continual volunteer experiences have an impact on life span.

How are some ways you can help?

Sew-What? My friend Saira is a natural giver and is always doing things for others. So it’s no surprise that she is combining her stress-relieving hobby with a good cause. Saira and her family have been sewing face masks for distribution to healthcare works who need PPE. They have made close to 100 masks so far and keep sewing away. If you have the seamstress gene, here are some patterns and guidelines for making masks of your own.

Use Your Skillz.  I’ll be honest, if I tried to sew a mask, it would probably look more like a hat. Or a bikini top.  I can affirmatively say, I did not get the seamstress gene.  However, I understand communications and branding a few other things that are useful during a pandemic.   I offered assistance to several groups with social media, setting up webinars, etc. as my contribution to helping my fellow humans.

My friend Victoria used her talents to build the website Welcome to Chinatown in an effort to promote the restaurants that are feeding the community, especially essential workers.

For my event peeps who are on hiatus, how can your logistical know-how help those who are struggling?  Speak to your local governments and charitable groups on how you can lend a hand.  Keep in mind that your help might not be COVID-9 related.  If you’ve always wanted to volunteer, but never had the time, now you do. 

Shop Til You Drop (it off at a neighbor). Yes, we are practicing social distancing, but we need food. Some of your neighbors may not be able to get out to the stores. Offer to pick-up groceries or, if you snag a spot for delivery or pick-up, offer to combine your order with a neighbor. Check out local Facebook groups or NextDoor for people looking for help. My town even started a group called Residents Helping Residents as a way to make the connecting of helper to recipient easier. Of course, you’ll have to keep a distance when splitting the order, but you can manage that.

Special Delivery.  Local restaurants are open and offering take-out and delivery.  They are trying to serve the community and keep their doors open post-quarantine.  Order a meal or two and make sure to tip them well. Not hungry?  Add onto an order going to a hospital or to first-responder and support people on the front lines with a delicious meal.

You CAN do it. Times are hard for everyone, but even more difficult for people who are struggling. Keep your local food bank in mind when shopping. Many grocery stores have a drop-off location on-site making it easy to give. Canned veggies, peanut butter, and pasta are some of the most requested items but check with your local bank to see what their specific needs are.

Stick it To You. Call your local blood bank for information on how and when you can donate. They have set up donation sites that practice social distancing to keep you safe during the procedure. They give you cookies and juice when you are done, just in case you need an extra incentive.

Stay the F Home.  While there are many options for supporting your fellow humans, the BEST thing you can do is to STAY HOME.  Don’t go out if you don’t have to.  You will keep everyone, including yourself, safe. 

If you are feeling down and helpless as shelter-in-place becomes the norm, volunteering can alleviate some feelings of despair and replace them with hope.