We all have the power: including those sheltering-in-place alone.
“Generosity is a sign of intelligence, and givers are the rising tide that lifts all boats.” — Adam Bent
These months are hard — and by many accounts, they’re getting harder. The initial energy bursts we experienced weeks ago are gradually depleted as the shelter-in-place continues, the economic fall-out widens, and the physical and psychological tolls deepen.
What if we were able to turn things around, and create more energy, both for ourselves and others?
The New York Times carried an article in their Smarter Living section on how givers are smarter than takers, because givers don’t allow themselves to become stuck in negative zero-sum thinking.
Zero-sum thinking is based on the theory that for someone to gain, someone else has to lose. Another way to describe it is “scarcity thinking” — that resources are finite, and there are too many people competing for increasingly smaller slices of the pie.
Intelligent givers blow this theory out of the water. Instead of taking the size, shape, and capacity of any set of resources as fixed and unalterable, intelligent givers “use their brainpower to expand the pie.”
Responses to the pandemic are replete with examples of how people are doing this: restaurants that would ordinarily be closed are cooking and delivering meals to local hospitals. Comedians who can’t perform live sets are organizing themselves and offering skits online to larger audiences than they would have in their normal performance venues.
And one guy is making one cup of filter coffee at a time and handing each cup out his window to passers-by using a fake mechanical gorilla arm.
Givers creatively find ways to benefit everyone without feeling like they’re cheating themselves.
There are a zillion ways to give without spending money or feeling like we’re making a significant sacrifice. We don’t have to believe in karma to know that doing good deeds in a good way makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Reaching out tangibly to other human beings gives us energy and hope.
And I, for one, need a lot more energy and hope these days.
This essay lists twenty ways to love and be loved.
Most of the ways don’t involve money, and can be done by yourself, in your home space. Many of them don’t involve technology.
I’m not just coming up with ideas out of the blue: every one has been field-tested by yours truly. Because I want to emerge from this pandemic with more compassion, not less. I want to widen my love circle. I want to end up stronger and more resilient: in my mind, body, and heart.
These love actions are keeping me sane, sound, and healthy during one of the most difficult times in modern history. Let us all discover even more ways to show and share love, creating an ever-expanding list.
1. Engage in a Spiritual Practice.
This first love act is the most important, because it [re]connects us with infinite love. During a breakdown years ago, the healer I consulted reminded me that beginning my days with dysfunctional emotions impacted every other part of me: physically, mentally, and psychologically.
He said I was starting my days “upside down” (I was so wrapped up in my emotions I was completely ignoring my spiritual side) and I needed to switch things up: to greet each day with gratitude: for being given life, and for another day to live.
I tried it. And then I tried again. Years later, this is how I wake up. Grateful.
2. Practice Impeccable Personal Safety Hygiene
This second love act is critically important, because it protects you (an act of self-love), along with everyone else (an act of community-love). We all know what to do.
Hand-washing, face masks, social distancing. Don’t slack — we are all depending on each other to step up.
3. Donate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
This is a love act that can save lives. Doctors have started their own site at #GetUsPPE. Massachusetts has an online portal for Covid-19 procurement and donations. So does Sacramento, Arizona, and New Orleans. Google “where to donate PPE” to find a location near you.
If you are particularly crafty, you can sew masks for others: the Fabric Patch has already constructed and donated 38,000 masks! Or if you’re feeling particularly generous, you can order a bunch on Etsy and send them to folks in need.
4. Cook Something and Deliver It to Someone
I’ve got a love-fest food exchange going on with my Richmond-based blues ensemble leader: he shows up (in one of those “double channel vapor masks” that makes him look like a bug) with cornbread, black-eyed peas, or gumbo: I share my seaweed snacks with him.
If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.
5. Stretch Your Body
We all know exercise is good for us, and keeps us healthy. Loving ourselves means loving our body. Plus –bonus!– when we stay healthy, we expand our bandwidth for love. Here’s a website with 593 free exercise videos.
Move whatever you’re able to move. Then do it again!
6. Dance by Yo’self
Once you’ve warmed up, the next step is to get free and silly. One of the benefits of shelter-in-place is that we can (literally!) dance our socks off while no one is watching.
Dancing gives us more energy. More energy = a greater ability to spread love.
7. Dance with an Online Dance Party
In case you haven’t heard, dance parties on both coasts are streaming live on Instagram and Facebook feeds. You can listen for free, or donate some bucks. I dare you: check out how much more love and connection you feel after a good online community dance session.
8. Dance with Your Neighbors!
9. Watch Funny Shows with Someone Else
You can do this “officially” with a Netflix party Chrome extension, or you can do it unofficially by finding a video you like (on YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Kanopy, etc.) and then synchronizing your watches.
You don’t have to pay for a subscription. Netflix recently released thirty hours of Nature shows and documentaries on this YouTube playlist.
For the month of April, HBO has also released a ton of free content.
10. If You’ve Got a Fruit Tree, Give Some Away
Walking through one of the — ahem– dicier Oakland neighborhoods, I was delighted to find a box of free lemons on a bench outside someone’s yard. My walk turned into a joyful moment, all because of a stranger’s act of love.
11. If You’ve Got a Garden/Yard, Put Birdseed Out
Show some love to your [sub]urban (or rural) wildlife. A tip: if you want to avoid the squirrels, aim for smaller birdseed, or a squirrel-proof container.
12. Share a Poem
The American Academy of Poets has a terrific free service: they will send one poem, every day, to your email box. Their poem-a-day is an easy way to become familiar with, and share poetry: each email contains both a text and audio version of the poem, with buttons to share on social media. “Poems bring us together,” is their slogan: a powerful message of love.
13. Support an Artist
Bring love to those who inspire love. This pandemic is tough on everyone, but even more so for performers and artists who are reliant on gigs, or whose income streams are unreliable.
14. Send a Love Letter
A “love letter” can be a card (55 cents), a postcard (35 cents), or an email. It can be long or short, romantic or platonic. The most important part is that the person receiving the missive knows they are loved.
15. Send a Care Package
Some folks are still having a hard time getting essential supplies, or cooking ingredients. Those of us with better access can help get things to people who need them. (I just sent a care package to an elder in a rural community with a miniature spray bottle and a recipe for DIY sanitizer.)
16. Call a Friend
Even better, use FaceTime, Skype, or WhatsApp to do a video chat. I have a list of several dozen people in my “inner circle” of Beloveds, who I try to call at least once a week. I’m prioritizing folks who I know are going through an extra-difficult time right now (facing Stage IV ovarian or stomach cancer), making sure to check in first to see if they have the energy to talk.
17. Start a Zoom Room
Zoom rooms are a fantastic way to get a group of people together in the same “virtual space” simultaneously: for happy hour, crafting, or chatting. While Zoom is the most popular webinar app, there are other free platforms like GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts.
Remember to password-protect your Zoom room, to avoid Zoombombing. And be gentle with first-time Zoom users. Help them to set up their audio and video with a gracious air.
18. Support Your Local Businesses
Although millions of small businesses have been forced to shut down, thousands of these same businesses are innovating to try and keep afloat. Family-run businesses are key to vibrant communities, and we all lose out when they have to shut down.
Let’s show the love in every way we can — from purchasing a cup of coffee or a taco at a takeout stand, to enrolling in a virtual studio or buying a gift card to use later.
19. Love the Planet
If you haven’t gone green yet, or you’re looking to up your eco-friendly game, it’s possible to use some of all that extra time to do that thing you’ve said you didn’t have time to do before: set up a household compost system, construct BYO cutlery kits, learn to can and/or freeze fresh vegetables and fruits, replace your plasticware with environmentally-friendly alternatives, and research reusable K-cup filters for those damn unrecyclable, landfill-destined Keurig pods.
20. Send Love into the Future
The most stupendously amazing love gift we can offer to future generations is to effectively deal with climate change, because whatever we do (or don’t do) now will have repercussions far into the millenium.
Bone up on the science if you haven’t already. Congratulate yourself on how you’re already reducing your carbon footprint by working from home, driving less, flying less, and eating out less.
If we are all capable of continuing these eco-friendly practices long after the pandemic is over, we’ll be literally sending gigatons (of lessened greenhouse gas emissions) of love into the future.
Got some other ways can we love and be loved? Share in the comments.
“Let your light shine as an inspiration to humanity and be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.”
— Germany Kent