Flipping the Line: No, you are not helpless. Your country needs you.
There are many things that you can do to assert control over your life in the face of a second wave of COVID-19.
The Line welcomes angry rebuttals and responses to our work. The best will be featured in our ongoing series, Flipping the Line. Today, Lindsay Amantea replies to Jen Gerson’s recent observations about our lack of cohesive spirit in the face of COVID-19.
By: Lindsay Amantea
Last week Jen Gerson wrote about how part of the struggle with the current pandemic on the psyche of our communities, something that sets this collective trauma apart from events like the world wars, has been the complete lack of direction from our governments as to how citizens can make a positive distance. Our boys aren’t signing up to fight on the battlefronts, our women aren’t following in the footsteps of Rosy the Riveter. Stay home, do nothing — that’s what we’ve been told over and over again (although some people are having trouble staying put).
It can feel like we have no control over what is going on in the world around us, leaving people feeling helpless and angry. It’s no wonder that tensions are high, and it feels like it’s each person for themselves. When anyone can be an unwitting carrier of COVID, the enemy can be anywhere. But make no mistake, this shared experience will be as generation defining as the wars of our forebearers. Although we may refuse to talk about this in the future, the scars of the last year will be burned into our collective consciousness as deeply as the ridiculous wartime flour-icing recipe my grandmother made until she died.
Even if we are sitting in our houses, we don’t have to sit idly by while the world happens around us. There are actions we can take to shore up ourselves, our families, and our communities. The physical and emotional damage that this disease and the associated restrictions are causing to people and businesses alike can be mitigated. In order to do this, we need to take this opportunity to put aside the growing animosity of the last few decades to give back to our own neighbourhoods.
Here’s what we can do.
Clean out your closet — literally. Since the beginning of the pandemic, charitable giving has fallen off the same cliff as the GDP. Organizations that assist vulnerable populations are struggling to make ends meet. With the colder weather, it’s particularly important that transient and struggling populations have sturdy, warm clothing to make it through the winter. Organizations like Dress for Success and Working Gear will need good business and work clothes for the people whose jobs have been lost during the pandemic. No matter how many times you look at that suit that’s now two sizes too small from all the stress eating, you’re not going to wear it any time soon. Let it make a difference in someone else’s life.
Support your food bank — preferably with more than just with old cans of artichoke hearts you bought for a spinach dip you never made. With higher unemployment rates and 53 per cent of Canadians living paycheque to paycheque even before the pandemic, food banks all over Canada are seeing surges in new and repeat clients. While we often remember to donate during the holidays, make sure your donations continue into January and beyond. While it is nice to clean out the cupboards to get rid of food you will never eat, remember that food banks can stretch money much further and feed even more for the same dollar. The vaccine is on the horizon, but we still have months to go before we can begin to hope for widespread inoculation. In a first-world country like Canada there is no reason why any person should go to bed hungry.
Buy local — in a sustainable way. Whether it’s your favourite take out (I won’t tell you where the best sushi in Calgary is — it’s busy enough) or a local clothing shop, make sure your purchases are putting money in the pockets of local business owners, not Jeff Bezos. Apps like Skip the Dishes might be convenient for you to get food without getting up off your couch but consider the amount the fees cut into a restaurant’s profits, which are notoriously thin at the best of times. Call to order directly and pick up the food yourself. Lord knows you probably need to change out of your pyjamas and leave the house a couple of times a week.
Check in on your friends who live alone. Lockdowns disproportionately isolate people living alone. As humans we are social creatures and all the zoom meetings in the world don’t make up for the presence and physical interaction of other people. Socially distanced walks, coffee over the internet, a phone call (who does that anymore?), dropping off baking or a home cooked meal (hint hint, Jen) — these are all goods ways of checking on people who might be mentally struggling to make it through the day.
Perform deliberate acts of kindness. Everyone who knows me finds it hilarious that I am the one sitting here preaching compassion and kindness, but 2020 has been a weird year for us all. Every act of kindness is an act of community building, a shared understanding of the trials that we are all going through. Whether it is a smile for a stranger even if you are wearing a mask (it shows in the eyes), extra patience with your co-workers, or buying coffee for the person behind you in the drive-thru line, small kindnesses are the candles in the darkness of this black hole of a year. Make it a point of performing at least one deliberate act of kindness a day. It’s good for the soul.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there yet — and with an end in sight, the cabin fever and desire to skirt restrictions will get worse. Dec. 11, 2020 marked the first day of more than 700,000 cases of COVID diagnosed worldwide. It’s been a long year. But we must remain steadfast in our commitment to bend the curve down and slow transmission. We will never know if we did too much, but we will definitely know if we did too little.
There is going to be a lot of rebuilding to be done when this is all over and we can do things now to make it easier to come back from this. Each of these measures are a strike at the heart of the crisis that has been, and remains, COVID-19. Do them. Repeat them. Repeat them again and again and again until 2020 is but a distant memory. This is your call to action. Your neighbours, your community and your country needs you.
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