Apocalypse: Now What? How to give Washington a helping hand

A reader says: I’m doing well in the pandemic. How can I help others?

Flower delivery in Seattle

“Bringing joy to people is essential,” says Helena Dworakowski, right, a contract delivery driver for Active Delivery Service, a Seattle-based company that services local florists across King County. “When I drop off the flowers I’ll knock on the door and send them a text letting them know they’ve received a gift.” (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Coronavirus has changed our reality for the foreseeable future, prompting questions from you about how to navigate our strange new normal. In this weekly column, we hope to answer them with practical advice, ideas and solutions. Ask your question at the bottom of this story.

Question: I'm doing relatively well in these times (introvert, good job, healthy, I like my family, found a good rhythm). I feel OK. How can I help others to see the “gifts” or “lessons”? Yes, it's hard, but it can make us stronger. I want to inspire hope and help people overcome fear.

Well, hello there, Sunshine! Kudos to finding your best self in a pandemic. I mean that without a picogram of irony or derision: Through a combination of fortune and fortitude, you seem to have found your path through the maelstrom. And it is also to your credit that you want to take your bright light of optimism and find ways to help others. Very altruistic, very cool. This is no easy task. Heck, I'm barely managing to get by on classic sci-fi and too much hooch.

But the reality is that many, many people are not doing fine. They may be struggling with mental health issues, reaching at-risk family or finding a rhythm with their kids and the looming, uncertain school year. Perhaps they’re unemployed and can’t access federal or local benefits, or worried about when and if they’ll be evicted

And we can’t forget that plenty of people are still getting sick and dying and dealing with the aftermath of suffering from COVID-19, not to mention the structural inequality that makes this illness all the more fearsome for so many. 

While your desire to inspire hope is laudable, with so many people in need, I believe indulging your inner Tony Robbins and sharing lessons are perhaps the wrong approach. (Trying to persuade others to “see” the “gifts” of a pandemic could perhaps come off as especially grating.) Instead, I implore you to take your positivity and clarity and use them to aid those who are still on the ropes. 

I’ll consider the fact that you’re an introvert: There are still plenty of ways you can share cash, time and supplies (even blood) to fight the pandemic. You can still support arts organizations or music venues or museums while they’re closed.

Food banks are still short of supplies, and with the economy still on life support, the need could continue into the future for thousands of your neighbors. Perhaps you and your cool fam (if they’re in your safe circle) can order takeout from a struggling favorite restaurant once or twice or thrice a week to keep them afloat.

The state has another directory for ways you can help, many similar to what we mentioned above. They also mention checking in on elderly neighbors or others through windows, or via call, text or Zoom (though you can do this with anyone who might need friends, company or assurance).

You can register as a health volunteer in your spare time from your good job. If you’re especially committed, you can even volunteer for vaccine trials. When in doubt, check in with All in WA to find a place for hard-earned money or time. 

Despite your self-assessment as an introvert, it’s clear part of you wants to reach out and inspire. After you’ve committed to some of the above methods, I’d urge you to reach out to your network to inspire others to follow your example. Share the stories of how these charitable activities made you feel even stronger and more hopeful than you are now, how it’s a gift to be able and empowered and privileged to lend a hand when there isn’t enough to go around. 

And record those lessons for yourself, so they can be part of the history we will recount when we all overcome this frightening time, and can share the lessons for future generations.

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About the Authors & Contributors

Ted Alvarez

Ted Alvarez

Ted Alvarez is formerly an editor at Crosscut and KCTS 9 focused on science and the environment.