Coronavirus quarantine is beckoning us to lend a helping hand


Natalie Mix

Leaving positive notes by neighborhood mailboxes is a small way to contribute happiness

There’s a large whiteboard hanging on one dull teal wall of my frenzied and rarely cleaned kitchen. It’s served many purposes of which I have entirely lost count and remembrance, but in the recent few days, it has become a deplorable schedule. 

Trying to grasp onto the remaining threads of sanity left in our home, my mother has put together a daily list of requisites for me and my siblings and the times between which she expects us to complete them. I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s futile to say that I’m far from an avid supporter of this new implement in my kitchen and in my life. 

However, there is one category, neatly outlined in placid purple marker, that has sparked a train of thought, and consequently research, within my mind. 

“Something for Someone Else”

It’s dangerously easy for me to shine a spotlight on all the things I’m less than satisfied with during this disconcerting and unprecedented epoch of life. But I’m beyond fortunate right now. I spend these secluded days traversing the pages of the massive stack of books in the corner of my room, relishing in the company of a couple of my closest friends, and embarking on the occasional trek to the grocery store. 

This virus and its effects are a minor inconvenience, and, at times, a blessing, to me; it’s a devastating and life-threatening peril to millions of others. 

And the more I delved into the depths of the internet, I realized this is exactly the time I’m being called to offer a hand to everybody who’s scarcely struggling through these dark weeks as the world threatens to collapse at their feet. 

Our opulent bubble of existence is being called to offer a hand. Simply because we can.

Donate to local food banks

I was plagued by anxiety at the idea of calling food pantries to ask if they were accepting food donations, but my worries were assuaged by the good-natured spirit of the recipients on the other end of the phone. 

North End Community Ministry, located at 214 Spencer St. NE, Grand Rapids, and Feeding America West Michigan, located at 864 W River Center Dr NE, Comstock Park, are two food pantries in the area eagerly accepting food donations. 

While North End Community Ministry is “technically closed” due to the coronavirus threat, they are distributing food at the door to those in need. I was instructed to simply knock on the door if it was locked and someone would be there to accept whatever nonperishables I desired to donate. 

Feeding America West Michigan similarly explained that I should enter through the service door, door #8, and let them know I was there to donate. They are also accepting nonperishables such as peanut butter, pasta, and paper products. 

Both pantries were happy to answer all my questions with joviality, and I would recommend turning to them to clear up any confusion or remaining queries concerning how to donate. 

Support small businesses

A brief drive down 28th street boasts an extensive variety of businesses that have been forced to entirely change the way they provide service. They are in desperate need of any and all support we can give. Most drive-throughs remain open, and the opportunity to buy gift cards from these establishments either online or at grocery stores is still prominent. 

Without customers, these businesses can’t pay their employees who may be depending on these paychecks to put dinner on the table. 

This message rings true for independent bookstores as well. Many have been forced to shut down or transition to online services. Schuler Books, Baker Book House, and Argos Book Shop offer online shopping opportunities through the links provided above. In the case of Schuler Books, they also have availability for curbside pick-up of books and carry out from their cafe, Chapbook Café. 

Allotting time and money towards these businesses isn’t just a self-benefiting opportunity for variety during the monotonous routine of quarantine; it’s a show of support for the community in a time when fear and uncertainty are hanging like a cloud over our city and our world.

Support animal shelters

Taking into consideration my fondness for my cat and his continual presence in the swath of blankets that usually surrounds me throughout my daily activities, it genuinely hurts my heart to think of the animals in shelters who aren’t receiving the human contact and loving care that they have become accustomed to. 

A very quick internet search proves the notion that animal shelters are as much in need of assistance as any other item on this list. 

Kent County Animal Shelter is working to keep face-to-face interactions to a minimum, and, while this is the cautious and safe decision necessary to keep staff, customers, and shelter animals healthy, it leaves the shelter animals at risk for potential mental and behavioral decline. Their website shares its own plea for help, begging the community to not forget about these animals and presenting efficient routes to pet adoption.

The Humane Society of West Michigan has transitioned their shelter to remain open by appointment only, but are, similarly, still eager to undergo the process of pet adoption. Their site also offers opportunities to foster animals if adoption isn’t a commitment that can be made. 

However, if adoption or fostering are not something your home can accommodate, donations are a happily accepted alternative. The Kent County Animal Shelter website provides a list of items they are usually in need of from the community, while the Humane Society offers a similar list alongside the ability to contribute monetary donations.

These shelters, and dozens of others in the area, are scrambling to continue to provide efficiently for the pets under their care, and simple donations or adoptions can take a load off of their overflowing plates. 

Share positive posts on social media

As a frequent inhabitant of the Instagram platform, I am consistently bombarded with a slew of posts reminding me of the eminence of coronavirus. And these posts are important to share. I’m by no means attempting to claim that these posts aren’t vital reminders of what we can do to stay safe and keep others safe from this threat. 

However, the onslaught can be disheartening at times, and it’s the uplifting and anxiety-quelling posts that serve as a lighthouse in the stormy deluge. I assume I’m not the only one that takes comfort in these calming posts that either highlight the positives or focus on the importance of mental tranquility. 

So share the posts that make you smile. Offer that deep breath that we so often need to pull us out of the foggy chaos and panic. 

Leave notes by mailboxes

Disclaimer: it is illegal to leave non-mail items in established mailboxes as a way of “dropping something off.” I am not condoning this in any way. If you choose to leave notes, put them near the mailboxes, not inside. 

Leaving little notes around your neighborhood can be a medium for sharing positivity or offering your services. 

For people who aren’t as capable of leaving their homes to acquire necessities from a grocery store, a simple notecard with your phone number and an offer to help with picking up items and dropping them off at their door can make a critical difference. 

Or, if you have the capability to provide other services and aren’t sure how to get the word out, share your contact information and what it is you can provide on a notecard. 

However, simple notes of positivity are also an acceptable way to bring a spark of light to someone’s day. 

Whatever it is you may decide to share on a note, remember first and foremost to respect the privacy of neighbors and not cause unnecessary trouble. 

Donate your money

While monetary donations may not be an available option for some, if this is how you feel called to donate your resources, there are copious organizations striving to make a difference throughout the spread of coronavirus. 

Meals on Wheels America provides meals to senior individuals who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals. With coronavirus impacting this demographic more than any other, Meals on Wheels has become a considerably more important service than it already was. Their area of impact spreads far and wide, and they are calling for immediate assistance as they fight on the front lines of the war against this pandemic. 

No Kid Hungry is an organization endeavoring to combat child hunger in America. Their efforts include opening the doors for kids to have access to already established child nutrition programs. With schools canceled indefinitely, many children have missed meals that would have been provided at school, making No Kid Hungry more important now than ever. Their plan to counter this obstacle requires help from individuals across America as they try to provide meals to the hardest-hit communities. 

The goal of the American Red Cross has consistently been to offer aid in times of distress and emergency, and with the uprise of the coronavirus, their services have become a vital effort. The coronavirus has seen a severe shortage of blood donations, and the American Red Cross is requesting that healthy and able individuals donate blood that may end up saving a life. Their humanitarian aid can also benefit from monetary donations, allowing them to respond to more disasters, distribute more meals, provide more housing, and further contribute to the efforts of their Home Fire Campaign.

Save the Children fights to meet the needs of children across the world by focusing their efforts on distributing healthcare, improving education programs, protecting children from harms such as poverty and violence, standing strong for gender equality, helping children’s voices be heard, and delivering lifesaving relief during emergencies. In the thick of coronavirus, Save the Children has committed themselves to offering learning resources to young learners across the nation and has partnered with No Kid Hungry to ensure children have access to three meals a day. Their site offers a variety of ways to give, including one-time gifts, monthly donations, and child sponsorship. 

These are just a few of the salient ways our world has risen up to match the ferocity of the coronavirus. As much as I, and I assume many others, want to ignore the torrential downpour, we can’t. This is real. This is now. 

Years later, I expect to look back on this event with both nostalgia and relief. I’ve always wanted to live through something monumental, and now that I am, I know I have to play some role in softening the blow of this crisis. 

I while away my days, consumed in the fluttering pages of a book, lost in the cacophony of noise erupting from my tv, laughing away the compounding anxiety within the walls of my eccentrically decorated bedroom, comfortably alongside the only friend my mom will let me see right now. 

And I am so fortunate. In my opulent little bubble, the coronavirus is barely a threat. In fact, it’s a chance for me to simply relax—to be. 

But that whiteboard resides on my dull teal kitchen wall, and in a way, it haunts me. It reminds me that I need to step outside of myself. I need to step outside and offer what I have—offer all that I can. 

The coronavirus isn’t going to just fade away because we pretend it’s not there. It’s going to continue to plunder and pillage. So it’s time for us to fight back.