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Coronavirus Help: 31 Small, Nice Things To Do for Others During an Epidemic

Being a good neighbor takes five minutes. You've got the time.

In this era of coronavirus, community-minded thinking is more necessary than ever. Social distancing and responsible quarantining (even within families) — not to mention browbeating older people to stay safe — are the most critical actions, the primary care we can provide our neighbors and communities. But behaving responsibly is reacting responsibly to the facts on the ground and we don’t need to limit ourselves to reactions. We can be proactive in the face of crisis. We can help those in need. And there are plenty of people who could use a hand right now. The question for those who wish to cast themselves as helpers is where to start. There’s no one answer. There are many. 

In an attempt to provide some inspiration, we’ve put together a list of simple actions that you can take to help those around you. They say it takes a village. That means that each of the villagers has to show up. Lead by example and things will work out fine. Here’s where to start: 

  1. If you’re going to talk about the coronavirus — and you likely are — read about it seriously and know what you don’t know. Making people more anxious by sharing unfounded claims or socializing fringe theories is not helpful. Being precise in the face of confusion is an act of intellectual courage.
  2. Buy gift cards to local restaurants and establishments you love. They need the business. Instagram founder Mike Krieger has set up a site-specific for Bay Area restaurants. Expect more sites to come. Plus, you can have something to look forward to when this is all over. 
  3. If you have a special skill, consider providing group lessons free of charge, especially to kids. Guided meditation, yoga classes, gymnastic clinics, voice lessons, piano lessons, and, please, carpentry classes would be good right about now. It’s amazing how easy it is to teach someone a skill over Facetime.
  4. Hop on Nextdoor or another neighborhood-specific community tool to see if there are any elderly people or people under quarantine who need someone to grab groceries. If you live in an apartment building, you can post a sign-up sheet in the lobby. If you have vulnerable family members and friends without local support, help them find the support they need.
  5. Ask around about local programs to help seniors who may be homebound. There are new programs — from sending letters to calling them on the phone — now available in many areas. Help the phone trees grow.
  6. Share your WiFi if you know folks who don’t have Internet access. Share your Netflix, HBOGO, Disney+, and or other streaming passwords if you can, too. 
  7. If able, continue to pay your nanny. 
  8. Bought a bestseller on your Kindle? Share it with someone who needs a good book and can’t afford to pay $15 for a thriller. Using the service, you can loan out a slew of books, depending on publishing rights. 
  9. Send a daily text to check in on friends. Posting to social media is fine — people want to know you’re okay — but shows of direct concern are more meaningful.
  10. Live in an urban area with stoops? Organize some social distance block parties, where everyone gathers on their individual steps. 
  11. Gather friends, neighbors, and family for a group-watch streaming session. Netflix Watch and Kast, both of which are free, let up to 25 people view content simultaneously.
  12. Offer childcare help to friends working in health care and other high-risk jobs. Understand that doing so poses a potential risk to you and your family so consider the potential consequences of this action. It may ultimately be better advised to help them secure care than provide it.
  13. Foster a pet: Shelters are overwhelmed right now and staff is being sent home so there’s less care for the animals. The Humane Society is scrambling to help. 
  14. If you have people working for you, in your home or at your business, start conversations and planning, time management, and, most of all, money. Give people an opportunity to plan. 
  15. Offer to walk dogs for people in the community at higher risk.
  16. Put a sign outside your house that lets any delivery people know where they can drop off their wares without physical contact. 
  17. Tip delivery people handsomely.
  18. Thank anyone working in a grocery store. They are putting themselves at risk to help.
  19. Express your gratitude to anyone working in healthcare right now. They are on the frontlines of this battle and need all the support they can get. 
  20. Make bad jokes.
  21. Make good jokes.
  22. Wave at people and say hello to strangers. This might seem like offputting behavior and, under normal circumstances, it could be, but many people are alone or lonely right now. They deserve to be acknowledged. A shouted “Good Morning” can provide some relief for those without strong social connections.
  23. Want to share important articles with loved ones? Doublecheck the sourcing before you do so. Try not to share articles from publications that aren’t doing original reporting on the virus. Epidemics are incredibly hard to understand. Anyone trying to cover coronavirus without help from medical professionals will inevitably slip up.
  24. Think about how your voice sounds. Does it sound panicked? Try to channel sounding like Matthew McConaughey.
  25. Send a book to a friend.
  26. Send old DVDs/Blu-rays to a loved one. This does sound a bit wild, but lots of people — specifically older people — still have DVD players.
  27. Make someone a playlist.
  28. Project a movie on the back wall of your house and let your neighbors know so they can watch from their backyards.
  29. Write letters to your friends and family. Mail is still being delivered. A physical letter shows more thoughtfulness and provides an artifact of your care.
  30. If you have extra supplies, put them outside with a note so passersby know they can grab them.
  31. Donate. to Feeding America, No Kid Hungry, or Meals on Wheels. This is not just an epidemic. It’s a major economic event. The less fortunate need your help.