it’s day 19 of quarantine for me, personally. in the last several days i’ve realized that it’s a big risk to even go out for walks and bike rides (exercise, fresh air) so we’re pretty fully committed to staying inside all day, most days.
i’ve been feeling like i’m drowning. i’ve been feeling more empathetic than i’ve probably ever been able to towards disabled folks who are homebound, all the time, rather than just for a national crisis. i’ve been feeling spiraling depression. the cooking and baking and energy for productivity of week 1, where the whole thing felt kind of like FINALLY a break from the relentlessness of my life, is definitely over now, and i struggle to get anything done. i’m struggling, honestly. at the same time i’m breathing and remembering that so many have it worse, for so many reasons (unsafe homes, in prison, no home, sick, at risk, alone,…) and i’m remembering how to care deeply for my community.
i want to help, but i’m terrified to leave my house. i want to help but i barely know my neighbors, and i live in NYC, hardest hit area in the US thus far. i want to help but i’m already feeling i can barely help myself.
but still – i want to help. and we all should want to help. this is the kind of crisis that tests our mettle, shows us who we are in crisis. i don’t mean that in a shaming sort of way – of course you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others with theirs, as they say on the airplane, ha. but still, once yours is on, once a few weeks have passed and you’re getting your grip on things again, we should try to help each other and those who are worse off than ourselves. it’s what makes us human.
ways to help, that i’ve found and find accessible for my own situation/others in similar places:
IN YOUR BUILDING/NEIGHBORHOOD:
Get to know your neighbors and see if they need anything you can help with. I don’t really know my neighbors! I’m embarrassed to admit that. I’ve spoken with most of them but don’t have their contact information, which makes organizing against our common landlord quite difficult. I’m planning to post a note downstairs by the door with my phone number and an offer to share needed supplies, get groceries, etc.
Engage in mutual aid networks! Facebooks got ’em. I found this hub today too, check it out.
First and foremost, stay in touch with your friends and family. Folks are struggling right now, and anyone who has mental health stuff going on is bound to be doing way worse in this new scaryandbizarre state of things. Reach out regularly. Offer financial support if you can.
Become a penpal. I just signed up with BlackAndPink, an organization that matches an outside penpal with an LGBTQ person currently in prison. It’s an anti-incarceration organization, so please know that and engage accordingly if you aren’t personally there yet.
Become a phone pen pal. I also signed up with DOROT, who are matching folks with elderly members of the community in NYC and Westchester for weekly or bi-weekly phone chats to help with the loneliness.
Help those who are blind/have low vision abilities. Just learned about the BeMyEyes app and can’t give an adequate review, but I’ve heard good things.
SUPPORTING OUR BIG COMMUNITY:
If you aren’t part of a rent strike and can still afford to pay rent, contact your landlords. Ask them how they’re supporting folks who can’t pay rent. I did this and got a moderately satisfactory answer (payment plans, no late fees, but rent is still due).
Organize a rent strike if possible! Lots of work being done by that through Housing Justice groups.
Call utilities companies and demand that they keep everyone’s utilities going during this crisis.
Call your reps and demand Healthcare for All, Free Rent for All, freedom for incarcerated folks, and so on. Rikers has a huge outbreak and folks there are basically being signed off to die by the state government. If you aren’t an abolitionist yet, at least think of the human aspect of that — thousands of people signed away to death even as they work for pennies to produce hand sanitizers for the state. That’s uh, pretty bad.
I don’t really know how to sew, nor do I have the supplies, so I am not currently planning to do this, but lots of folks are sewing their own masks and donating them to local hospitals and also wearing them when they must go out. Guidelines here and here.