How to help others

How to help even when you feel helpless

MURDER HORNETS? Because a pandemic where people are dying and our lives have changed and we’re juggling work and schooling and the kids being home and some stuff being hard to get (toilet paper!!! frozen French fries!!!!) just wasn’t enough????

I get it. We’ve heard of killer bees. But somehow, “murder hornets” sounds so much more vicious. So much more of yet another blow for our 2020 selves to handle.

But this isn’t a post about murder hornets. It’s about how to help, even when everything is different right now and we’re maybe even feeling helpless, unsure of how to keep ourselves safe, powerless, and lost. We’re staying home if we can, we’re juggling a lot, we’re looking out for friends’ and family’s mental and physical health (it can be emotionally exhausting!), and many of us are also trying to help. But help what? Help how? How can we help when the world seems to be turned on its head right now? How can we help when these situations are so much bigger than any one of us?

There are some days where I just can’t figure it out. But then there are good days where I can. Remember, every kind gesture, every smile even, can help make a difference in someone’s day and, little by little, also help chip away at some of these much bigger issues. In case you’re looking to help and can’t figure out how, here are some ideas that have brought me comfort and have helped others:


Does your community have a food pantry or soup kitchen that takes donations? Set up a simple food drive in your neighborhood by leaving notes in mailboxes or sending a neighborhood email to let people know where they can drop off food for donation at your house. We left a box on our front steps and were thrilled to see it filled every day. If everyone gives even one box of pasta, together, you can feed a lot of people. We’ve run two drives in our neighborhood in the past two months and then dropped off the food at the local food pantry on behalf of all of our neighbors. It was that simple, and it allowed us all to give and support in a way that still allowed us to maintain social distancing.


Got crafty kids? Put them to work on writing notes or drawing/painting or making sticker pictures for friends and family. No crafty kids? No problem. Draw a stick figure with a smile and send it. It will make someone happy. Adults should participate, too! Right now, my oldest son is drawing mazes to send to friends. He and my mom have started a chain where he draws her a maze, mails it to her, she completes it and sends it back to him with a note, and then he makes and sends another. I of course plan to keep every single note they’re mailing back and forth, and someday, I hope he shows his own kids how he passed the time and put smiles on faces during this time of isolation at home.

We’ve sent notes to friends, made activity packets (word searches, trivia games, riddles), painted pictures for Great Grandma (age 96!), and even left fun notes for each other. Send happy mail, and I bet you’ll get some in return. Send me your address, and I’ll send you a happy letter.


PPE. I admit I didn’t even know that abbreviation a few months ago, but I sure know it now. Whether from friends in the medical field (THANK YOU for all you’re doing) or hearing about it on the news, it became crystal clear that this is an area where a lot of help is needed. Hmmmm, where did I put that sewing machine that I got for my birthday in 1989 when I was taking a Home Ec class called “Clothing” and wanted to make lots of stuff? And do I have time to learn to sew masks while I’m also juggling three kids at home, schooling for them, and a fulltime job? Ummm, nope.

But an amazing group of moms/writers I know started the organization Masks for Heroes, which allows frontline workers to post their needs for PPE on a website and for donors to find locations/facilities that need PPE they can donate — voila. Amazing moms helping people help people. So if you can sew masks, or you somehow have PPE to donate, please visit the site.

I was so excited to hear about this organization but was still unsure how I could help if I didn’t make masks. So, I asked. And while it’s not much, I help out a little behind the scenes answering emails. Knowing that that can help anyone even a little takes that helpless feeling away from me. Maybe there’s an organization you can help with in your town. If you’re wondering, just ask. You’ll be surprised what you can find.


Some businesses are struggling! If there’s a safe way to support them that is within your comfort level, consider doing it! Buy a restaurant gift card for upcoming holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or just because. Do curbside pickup at your favorite pizza place. Order online from a local gift shop. Your order can make a difference.


Some neighborhood friends and I have started dropping off surprise sangria on each other’s doorsteps, ordered from a local favorite restaurant. (I’m thinking we should keep up with this tradition even after social distancing is no longer a thing!). See how you can brighten someone’s day by dropping off something — a bouquet of hand-picked dandelions, a grocery store gift card, or, yes, sangria.


My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live 3 hours away from us. My father-in-law lives even farther. My own parents and sister live a mere 35 minutes away. We could have always been doing FaceTime or Zoom, but we weren’t. But somehow, with this sense of isolation, not seeing friends out and about or going to social events anymore, it started to get lonely. We missed each other even more. So we changed regular phone calls into regular Zoom or Facetime calls. Seeing those smiles really can help you feel a little less isolated and leaves you with a fuller heart.


OK, so you’re doing Zoom calls and running food drives. Maybe even a virtual happy hour with friends. But what about Cousin Lucy who lives alone? Or that friend you’ve been meaning to call but haven’t had a chance to yet? Check in on them. Just a call or a text or, yes, even some happy mail can go a long way.


Just a reminder. IF YOU CAN, please stay home to flatten the curve.


Are making a biweekly grocery store run? Do a quick check-in with your neighbors to see if they need you to pick up one or two things they’ve forgotten or weren’t able to help. I have a neighbor to thank for picking up a 72-count pack of waffles at Costco for me after there were no waffles left at the grocery store. Mornings here without waffles can be rough! And while I’m trying to teach my boys that we can’t always get what we want, everybody’s day will go a bit smoother now that a neighbor was kind enough to bring us waffles.


Is it spirit week at work? Or crazy hat day at school? Or Teacher Appreciation Day? Or Thank the Sanitation Workers Day? WHATEVER IT IS, PARTICIPATE! It brings some levity, it gives purpose, and it HELPS others to know you’re with them even when we’re apart. Someone is taking the time to plan these things. Honor that. Help them.

Stay safe, everyone. We’re in this together, and we will get through it, one little helping hand at a time.

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