FILE – This June 28, 1989, file photo, shows Fred Rogers as he rehearses the opening of his PBS show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” during a taping in Pittsburgh. A new Fred Rogers Trail promoted by VisitPA.com includes museums, memorials and other sites. This year marks the 50th anniversary of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and a new documentary called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” has helped rekindle interest in his legacy. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
These are frustrating days. They aren’t made any easier by the pork-filled stimulus package that just passed the Senate and is on its way to the House. It’s hard not to feel helpless and out of control. There is only so much we can do to force government to bend to our will, but that doesn’t mean we are totally helpless right now. We can take back some measure of control while simultaneously boosting our spirits by reaching out to others in their time of need and giving back to our communities.
I asked friends and readers to tell me what they’re doing these days to help the people around them and keep each other encouraged. It felt really good to see all the responses. Americans are a generous people. For whatever sad and weird reasons, the people who run the cultures of Hollywood and media see Americans as selfish, greedy and stupid. It’s the vision they give us over and over again. Frankly, I think that is projection. Most of them are selfish and greedy and stupid and wouldn’t lift a finger to help out someone truly in need. Thus, they assume you are the same way. It’s the same reasoning behind why they think all men are closet rapists. In Hollywood, many are. So they think the rest of us live that way too.
Regardless, the truth is that Americans are the most giving people on the planet. Not only do we spend our resources and time on our communities, we spend them on the global community as well. When there is a disaster, America springs to action. Americans give their money and even their lives to serve people in foreign lands. It’s time we stop letting Hollywood and the progressive media get away with painting our countrymen so negatively. We are a great nation filled with a few bad apples and a ton of amazing, neighborly people. It does the heart and mind good to dwell on some of the positive things that are happening during this crisis.
So in the spirit of togetherness, here is a list of some of the suggestions people made. Maybe some work for you, maybe some don’t but perhaps you might feel inspired to create your own helpful things. I also recorded this in podcast form, so if you just prefer to listen as you work or do chores just scroll to the bottom and hit play.
Now is an unprecedented opportunity to serve and to prove our American mettle. Godspeed.
Ideas for being neighborly in this pandemic:
“Treasure hunts” for kids – some people have been putting teddy bears in their windows so that when kids are out for a walk in their neighborhoods they can do a “bear hunt”. It’s a fun way to keep the little ones occupied and distracted and it’s so helpful for frazzled parents who have been walking the same quarter mile for days on end. The same can be done with rainbows, shamrocks, whatever.
Sidewalk chalking – have some sidewalk chalk? Draw some encouraging messages along the sidewalk near your home. If you live near a hospital or clinic, think about chalking the route workers walk and leaving them a nice note to let them know they are appreciated.
Checking in on neighbors – lots of folks are using their NextDoor apps to keep tabs on the needs in their neighborhoods and provide accordingly. If you have elderly neighbors, think about contacting them to see if they need you to run out for anything.
Making/providing masks – Some of you have sewing skills and there are directions available online for how to make a rudimentary mask. If you can make some that’s great. Hand them out to the local hospital or even to your local grocery store employees and delivery drivers. If you have extra masks that you’ve been saving, consider giving one or two to people who are working in areas that make them vulnerable to infection right now.
Storytelling – one friend has been recording herself reading books and sending the video to friends with kids. It might be nice to have someone else read a story to your little one right now. A lot of parents can use any break they can get right about now.
Support local businesses that are open – many people are ordering takeout whenever they can. My friend Bridget Phetasy has actually opened up spots on her podcast for free advertising for businesses that are suffering. Every little bit counts.
Volunteering at animal shelters – there are still tons of abandoned pets out there that need to be cared for. If you have some mobility and don’t mind moving about, consider calling your local shelter or rescue to see what they need. Some may need foster families, others may need someone to just clean cages and mop the floors.
Virtual cocktail hour – bars are closed but you can still “get out” and get connected. There are multiple platforms you can use to connect with others for a few minutes and laugh.
Care kits – a friend of mine is a single guy, has much of what he needs plus extra and no one to be responsible for in his household. He took it upon himself to create small care packages for his neighbors – toilet paper, Clorox wipes, tissue…whatever spare stuff he had on hand.
Cash gifts– times are uncertain, but if you have the ability to pass on a few dollars to someone close to you who may be out of work that’s a great thing to do.
There are tons of ways to help. You can hear more in my podcast below. What have you been doing to serve those around you? Drop your ideas in the comments. I’d love to hear.