Three simple steps for empathy in the era of Covid-19

Kat thinks about the ways we can help each other even when we’re far apart (for now).

2019 was a turbulent year. We experienced political instability, a country divided by the Brexit controversy, fires savaging both Australia and the Amazon rainforest, and continued inaction in the fight against climate change, so the feelings of powerlessness and unease we’re now experiencing due to the Coronavirus pandemic are admittedly not too new to us.

But this epidemic is like nothing we have ever seen before, and it has already rearranged and reshuffled the structure and fabric of society as we know it. These are difficult, uncertain and unsettling times, and as such, feeling powerless, anxious and overwhelmed is only natural. Now more than ever, it seems essential that we all pull together, look out for and help one another wherever we can. Here are just a few small ways that you can look out for yourself and your community right now.

Offer your time.

If you are in a low risk group and able, you can offer to go to the shops, collect supplies, walk dogs or just generally assist in the support of the elderly and vulnerable who need to isolate. Social media is an incredible thing: by putting out a tweet or Facebook post, or going old school and delivering letters in your local community, you could become the lifeline that someone urgently needs. Equally, you could reach out to offer a friendly phone call to alleviate the loneliness of isolation for someone in your community – particularly for those vulnerable or elderly who must isolate alone. Plus, while I’m sure we are all fantasising about what life will be like after the lockdown measures are lifted, it’s also worth thinking about how local homeless shelters, food banks or similar organisations have and will be struggling even more than usual in such testing circumstances. Places like these will certainly be a good place to either offer your time or donate products if you can.

Don’t panic buy, and don’t stockpile.

Admittedly, when you’ve been greeted by row-upon-row of empty shelves and you find only two bags of pasta left, it’s easy for mob mentality to kick in. But… still don’t be that person who grabs both bags. The truth of the matter is, supermarkets will restock tomorrow and if you are able-bodied and in the non-vulnerable category there is no situation in which you NEED more than one bag of pasta for that night. However, the person who comes along next, who has risked a lot by making the trip to the local supermarket and probably won’t manage to come again any time soon, is too often coming away empty-handed and dismayed. It’s a heart-breaking image, and one we have been seeing all too often of late. Don’t be the person who causes that. Maintain empathy and selflessness, and shop only for what you need.

Support your local independents.

Your local independent cafes, restaurants, shops and venues are facing a challenge right now and many of them may struggle to survive. Since we can no longer visit and buy from these places, you can support them by buying vouchers or gift cards to be cashed in when the businesses reopen. Equally, apps like Wriggle have launched initiatives to support independents, such as the Indie Kitty which offers an opportunity to easily buy and store vouchers for future use. Alternatively, if you don’t have the ability to support a business financially, why not leave a positive review, write a supportive comment, and rally around their social media pages? A little kindness can go a long way for small independents.

It’s easy right now to focus on what divides and separates us – there’s a lot of pointing fingers and comparing of circumstances, and while I would usually argue that recognising and questioning these divisions is a necessary practice, there is a time and a place for it – and in the midst of a global pandemic, when anxiety and fear are high, is not it. The most important thing to practice right now is kindness, compassion, and empathy. Because we are all in this together, and we all must do our bit to protect and help each other.

How have you been supporting other people during the crisis? Let us know.

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