Humans have a need to contribute. It’s important for us to feel like our lives have meaning beyond just keeping ourselves alive. We want to create, to add, to help, to foster growth. We want our efforts to bring positive change to the world. It’s something that all humans value in one way or another. But do your circumstances inhibit your ability to contribute? What if you’re restricted in terms of resources, or in terms of places you can go. Can you, for example, contribute in meaningful ways while you’re quarantined?
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a lot away from almost everyone. Even beyond those who have not personally dealt with the devastating loss of life, people everywhere are dealing with the long-reaching effects of this global crisis, particularly the effects of being quarantined. High school and college seniors are missing the chance to walk at graduation ceremonies, weddings are being postponed or trimmed down dramatically, and all “nonessential” travel has virtually disappeared. Along with the events and opportunities that have been canceled, many people may start to feel like quarantine is taking away something else as well: their ability to contribute.
After all, how much contribution can you make from within the four walls of your home?
Actually, quite a lot.
Ways to contribute while in quarantine
Here’s the thing about contribution: it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering to make a difference. The fact is, each of us has a sphere of impact, and for many of us, that sphere might not extend beyond ourselves, our families, and/or our local communities. But that doesn’t mean that the contributions within your sphere are any less meaningful.
That’s good news, because it means that even when you feel like your sphere of influence has been tightened—say, by a nationwide pandemic—there are still things you can do to contribute to society and to the people around you.
Here are some ways to contribute while in quarantine that will help you recognize your potential for positive influence.
Support small businesses
The coronavirus crisis has kept many people from leaving their homes, and it’s kept many businesses from operating to the extent that they’re used to. While essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies may be operating at business-as-usual levels (or higher), other businesses may be struggling to keep the doors open.
The effects of the pandemic on our global economy are yet to be determined, but let’s face it: it’s not going to be good. And for small businesses who may already struggle to remain consistently profitable, it could be especially bad.
That’s where the rest of us come in. As consumers, we choose where to put our dollars, and putting them into small, preferably local businesses can have a big impact, especially now. Here are some things you can do to contribute in this way:
- Order food from local restaurants (and leave a good tip)
- Think ahead to birthdays and holidays, and buy gifts from small shops
- Spread the word about your favorite small businesses on social media
- If possible, continue to pay (or partially pay) any individuals that normally provide a service to you (nanny, house cleaner, etc.)
- Share specials and promotions from local businesses on social media
- Ask business owners if purchasing gift cards would be helpful (it may not be in every situation)
Support teacher efforts
While many schools have been canceled for the remainder of the year, many teachers have not abandoned their responsibility to continue to teach their students. Many of them are doing video calls, assigning online work, and offering other support and materials to kids and parents.
If you’re a parent who now finds yourself at home all day, every day with your kids, first of all—consider this a big pat on the back. This kind of shift is a huge adjustment for everyone involved. Whether you’re having to work from home or not, this situation has likely thrown you for a loop, to say the least, and at times like this, it’s enough to just do the best you can.
With all that in mind, also remember that many teachers are still working hard in whatever capacity they can, and showing some measure of support for those efforts could go a long way toward making teachers feel appreciated and valued. Encourage your kids to do the work their teachers assign them, and help them in whatever way you can.
This is a way of contributing to both your family and your community—supporting teachers while also furthering your child’s education. It’s no small thing!
If you’re employed, the best thing you can do to contribute is to continue to do your job to the best of your ability. This is easier said than done for a lot of people, who have to balance the new challenges of working from home along with all the other challenges the situation presents. But it’s an important way to continue to contribute to your company, the economy, and your family’s finances, so it’s important to figure it out.
Here are some quick tips to working effectively from home:
- Designate a space for work. Keep it separate from spaces you use for rest or recreation. This will help your brain know when it’s time to work, allowing you to be more productive.
- Determine a schedule that works for you, your family, and your team at work. Schedule times for meetings when you can be undisturbed.
- Give your full attention to the task at hand. When you’re working, be at work. When you’re with your family, be with your family.
- Communicate often and well with your team. When working remotely, it can be harder to keep everyone on the same page. If you already have efficient ways to stay in touch and organized, make the most of them. If not, there are plenty of great tools out there that can help.
- Make sure you have everything you need to work effectively: a desk, comfortable chair, good lighting, etc.
Participate in “neighborhood activities”
During these times, people are getting creative about their socializing. Many neighborhoods are organizing “events” to help keep communities united (and entertained). Participate in these activities if you can, or organize your own. Some I’ve seen and loved are:
- A “chalk walk.” Everyone uses sidewalk chalk to write messages or draw pictures for others on their front sidewalk. People going on walks around the neighborhood can enjoy your uplifting words or cute pictures.
- A “bear hunt.” Families put teddy bears in the windows of their homes, and then other families walking around the neighborhood can look for them.
- Driveway time. Many neighborhoods have a designated time when people can go sit in their driveways and socialize at a safe distance.
- Drive-by celebrations. If someone in your neighborhood has a birthday, you could do a drive-by celebration for them, where they stand in their driveway and everyone drives by to offer well wishes.
- Community sharing tables. These allow people the chance to give and take hard-to-find goods, like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, over-the-counter medicines, baking supplies, and more. Set up a table outside your house and allow people to take what they need and leave any extras they have for others.
One of the best things you can do to contribute during a quarantine is to stay connected to your friends and family. At a time when many people may be feeling lonely or disconnected, offering companionship, encouragement, and connection is a contribution that can’t be downplayed. Connection is good not only for the people around you, but for you as well!
Read this for more information about why connection is important, and to get some great ideas on how to connect during a time of social distancing.
Creativity sometimes gets put into a box that we think only artists and musicians can access. But the truth is, we all have access to creativity. We all have the ability to create something, even in quarantine. And when you create, you contribute.
Here are some ideas for stretching your creative muscles during quarantine:
- Do art projects with your kids (drawing with this family-friendly YouTube channel, coloring, painting, sidewalk chalk, crafting with all those Amazon boxes, etc.)
- Write social media posts that share something meaningful. This could be a thoughtful opinion, a vulnerable feeling, an uplifting quote, or even your favorite binge-worthy Netflix shows. If your post inspires other people to create their own posts as well, even better.
- Work on creating a more efficient process for your team at work.
- Complete a house project.
- Write—a journal entry, a blog post, or even a book manuscript.
- Refresh a lost skill—sewing, playing an instrument, etc.
- Play with your kids—build a fort, play with Legos, choreograph a dance.
- Reorganize a room (or several rooms) in your house.
- Read. Reading opens your mind to new experiences, perspectives, and possibilities, fostering creativity.
The world right now is an emotionally-charged, uncertain, sometimes downright scary place. If you are struggling to contribute in any of the above listed ways, whether because of mental illness or sheer overwhelm, that’s okay. The fact is that right now, even staying home and doing nothing is a contribution in and of itself. When you stick to the social distancing/quarantine guidelines set by local and national leaders, you are contributing to the fight against this unprecedented pandemic.
Allow yourself to believe that. Recognize that you are doing the best that you can. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you aren’t helping. As long as you’re staying home as much as possible, you’re contributing.
Without feeling like we are contributing, our lives would start to lose their sense of purpose and meaning. It’s important to recognize your contribution to the world. There are ways to contribute during quarantine, and no matter which you choose, make sure you’re giving yourself credit for your contributions. This is a new situation for all of us, but as long as we all contribute in the best way we know how, we can get through this together.
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