Fred Rogers, aka television’s beloved Mr. Rogers, is often quoted as having said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Wise, comforting and hopeful advice, no doubt.
But lacking somewhat. In addition to looking for the helpers in a time of crisis, we also should try as best we can to be the helpers.
The coronavirus pandemic requires adjustments such as self-isolation and social distancing to stop or at least slow its spread. But at the same time, we are faced with an invaluable opportunity to help.
It’s a conundrum ... how do we stay at home as many, including Galveston County residents, are mandated to do but at the same time reach out to help our neighbors and communities in need?
The answer is pretty simple: Use your common sense. The Galveston County stay-at-home decree issued earlier this week requires that we avoid going out unnecessarily and supports medical experts’ opinions to not gather in groups of 10 or more and to stand at least 6 feet away from others. But it also is wide-ranging in the kinds of businesses, persons and outings that are exempted.
Once you’re clear on what exactly the order decrees, you’re free to go about your merry way in efforts to help.
Consider giving blood. The American Red Cross is reporting a “critical need” for donors. Although hospitals are gearing up for coronavirus patients, those patients don’t necessarily need blood transfusions. A large downswing in blood donors, however, means not enough blood available for patients of any kind who need it. In addition to a decrease in individual donors, many churches and businesses are canceling their regularly scheduled blood drives.
The Red Cross assures that giving blood is safe, even in the midst of a worldwide viral outbreak. And because giving blood is considered an essential community service, doing so doesn’t violate any stay-at-home orders.
A sobering thought from the Red Cross: “One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of coronavirus is make an appointment to donate.”
How about fostering a pet during this down time? Researchers are reporting there is little risk of contracting COVID-19, the infection caused by this particular coronavirus, via contact with animals.
Shelters and rescues are full of pets — with some even seeing an uptick in owner surrenders because of pandemic panic — while at the same time being forced to lay off staff and limit on-site volunteers, leaving them with the dilemma of how to tend to the animals in their care.
Fostering helps to alleviate that concern. It gives the animals a healthy break from shelter life — plus, having the selfless love of a pet during stressful times such as these can be a comfort and, yes, a monotony buster while you’re stuck at home alone or with cabin-fevered children looking for a distraction.
Find your local animal rescue group and call ahead to ask about foster opportunities. (You’ll not be obligated to keep the pet forever, but we’d bet money you won’t want to give them up once this is all over.)
Beyond animal shelters, nonprofit organizations around the county are looking for volunteers to help in any number of ways — delivering food to shut-ins, donating food to a food bank or helping out onsite to hand out care packages at drive-through distributions, for example. Check with schools and churches as well, since many are mobilizing to get help to people who need it.
Do you have an area of expertise that you can offer to teach to students who are being schooled at home? It would give parents a break, as well as give students a new perspective and maybe a glimpse into an area they might not normally get to study.
The key is calling ahead to find out what people or organizations need and how you can best help. And if you are invited onsite, be sure to follow the common-sense guidelines for hand washing and social distancing, along with any other specific regulations put forth by individual organizations.
We agree, Mr. Rogers, this is indeed a time to look for the helpers. But it’s also the time to be them.
• Margaret Battistelli Gardner