In what feels like a helpless time, be helpful

You need to stay at home. That doesn't mean you're helpless.

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I have it pretty good right now.

That might surprise those of you who know that I’m a teacher and that I’ve had to completely adjust how I teach kids over the past few weeks. Nevertheless, I consider myself fortunate. By law, I will be paid my salary the same way I would if coronavirus had never happened, and as a young person with no underlying health conditions, my risk of death from this disease is relatively low.

But like many of you, I also feel helpless. I want to do what I can to make this go away, but I also need to stay home and not be part of the problem. So, what’s a person to do? Through some internet searching at home and newfound extra thought time, I believe I’ve found ways that we can be helpful in our communities in an otherwise helpless situation.

(To be clear, there are many people right now who are doing whatever they can to survive. If you are in this group, this advice is not necessarily for you. You need to do what you can to help your family, keep yourself healthy, and survive.)

1. Maintain social connections

We all need a sense of connection. Even introverts like me feel the need to bond with other humans. Social distancing can seriously limit this, but even more so for those who already have limited contact with the outside world anyway. I am very fortunate to have friends who find creative methods to interact with one another. The internet mixed with this creativity has allowed for group video chats and nights of online board/card games.

But we need to also be aware of those who do not have the benefits of many social connections. I am fortunate to still have three living grandparents, and I was able to get ahold of them over the last two weeks (admittedly after some prodding from my own parents). Our conversations were positive and enjoyable, but what stuck out to me was how much my grandparents really were thankful for my call. All three of them are considered “high risk” and are otherwise socially isolated. Remembering to stay connected with those who might have limited ability to reach out is a key part of helping our families and communities in these tough times.

2. Meet community needs

There are needs in our communities that are vital for helping us thrive through this pandemic. Marketwatch published an article recommending areas where people can help if they are healthy and able. Three areas that the article highlighted included helping your local food bank, donating blood, and helping people experiencing homelessness.

Every corner of Nebraska has agencies working to address these needs, and these are tangible ways that you can feel like you are doing something to combat this crisis while also, of course, actually helping people who are in need during this time. If we contribute to these areas in a way that still protects everyone’s health, we can ease the burden on our community in this crisis.

3. Spend stimulus dollars

My last piece of advice is the most uncomfortable one, and it definitely only applies to a certain number of people. However, if you are like me, and you will be getting a stimulus check from the government on top of your continued steady income, I would challenge you to consider putting those dollars where they can help the most people. Maybe that’s donating to charity, writing a check to someone who’s lost their job, or giving money to local businesses. Whatever it may be, the best way we can make sure this stimulus will actually help is by putting the money where it’s most needed.

So as you sit at home, wondering when the quarantine will end, feeling like there’s nothing you can do about the situation around you, consider these tips as a way you can try to make life better during the coronavirus. Maybe, like me, it will make you feel just a little more empowered. You need to stay home, but you don’t need to be completely helpless.

Jordan Martin teaches social studies at Wilber-Clatonia Public Schools. He also moonlights as an assistant one-act drama coach in the fall and a speech judge in the spring.

For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here.

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