Recently, on the West Coast, a young woman named Rebecca was heading into the grocery store, when she heard a woman yell out from her parked car.
The woman and her husband were elderly, and the woman was almost in tears as she explained that they were afraid to go into the store--they were told to avoid crowds, as they are in their 80s and particularly vulnerable to the CoronaVirus. But they needed groceries, and they had no family in town. They heard that COVID-19 is hitting older folks hard, and they didn’t know what to do. The woman handed Rebecca a $100 bill and a grocery list, and asked if she would be willing to shop for them.
Rebecca bought the groceries, put them in the couple’s trunk and gave them their change. Then she tweeted out the story. Over 11 million people saw it, including a city council member in Minneapolis. It inspired him to start a program for his community where volunteers could sign on to shop and run errands for elder folks.
Of course, many cities have grocery delivery services, but smaller towns may not. Older folks may not be tech savvy, even if online delivery is available. Or they may be on a fixed income and unable to budget for the delivery charge. For many, going grocery shopping is a way to get out of the house, so this leaves them feeling even more socially isolated and alone.
Check in on your elderly neighbors. They may be afraid to venture out to the market, and may not have any family nearby to help. One third of elderly women live alone, and half don’t have spouses. An offer to go grocery shopping for them or run other errands would be invaluable in this difficult, distressing, isolating time. At the risk of channeling Mr. Rogers here, it will also make you feel good, because you know you are helping others. You can make it "a beautiful day in the neighborhood” for someone else.
In a recent article in New York magazine, David Wallace-Wells writes, “What kind of society behaves this way, with a complete lack of institutional guidance and coordinated purpose, subjecting the vulnerable and scared to the terrors of pandemic disease? America, apparently.” Indeed, the federal government may have lost its way, but thankfully, local and state leaders are stepping in. And so, apparently, are individuals.
In New York City, we are trying to get used to the way the city feels like it’s on lock down, even though, technically, it's not. The silver lining here is that this creates a pause in our hectic lives, and gives us time to slow down, shift gears, take care of ourselves, become more introspective and reflective, and examine what kind of people we want to be in this world. Being neighborly is a great start.
Read the original twitter thread below: