The last thing anyone who has their back against the wall needs to hear or read is yet another self-serving whine fest about spring break. Or even about boredom, or what stuff we should order online so we can make being forced to stay home fun.
We’re too busy scrambling for survival and many of us can’t even afford to buy what we need, let alone stock up.
When your livelihood is so precarious it may already have disappeared or is disappearing fast, boredom is as much of a luxury as a stuffed pantry or a full fridge. Or vacations. Or even rest, especially if you’re a freelancer whose income is so variable the only way you can keep anxiety at bay is by knuckling down. And going the extra mile on the off chance it might make a difference, at least until you can come up with solutions to replace lost income.
Keeping going is how we keep sane because we don’t have a choice.
Then again, the opportunity to earn a few dollars even if they cover little more than one utility bill is better than nothing. Many of us won’t make rent next month, many of us won’t be able to feed ourselves or our families. And many of us won’t be able to afford health care if we get sick, unless we live in a country where it’s a basic human right.
The above isn’t an abstract for me. But the worst thing I or anyone in a similar situation could do is give in to despondency and sink into despair.
We don’t have the luxury to wonder how much harder life could get because we’re already there.
And we’ve been there for a while.
Today, yummy kitchen smells at lunchtime reminded me how fragile the equilibrium I’ve managed to achieve over the last 18 months is.
Now that all those who can work from home do to try and contain the spread of the pandemic, I have colleagues again for the first time in years. When I spent all day alone, there was nothing to remind me of lunch. Now, every lunchtime is an indictment of my current ‘lifestyle’, one where I’m still a long way from being able to eat more than one meal a day. Thankfully I’m an adult without dependents. But in my home state of Washington for example, school closures mean some kids are currently going hungry.
Imagine the heartbreak of being a parent stuck at home with little ones going stir-crazy and being unable to provide for them, never mind yourself...
This is quite different from the plight of tech workers who’ve just lost their catered lunches, yoga classes, and weekly massages. This is the plight of families who used to rely on free or reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches to feed their kids.
And it needs highlighting as a matter of urgency.
Raising awareness is a duty, even more so when it comes from a place of personal experience past or present. For every privileged person rocking themselves into a stupor in the corner and self-soothing with doorstep deliveries of things they don’t need, there’s innumerable impoverished folks figuring out how best to make do with what’s available.
And we have secular patron saints, like former line cook turned author and political activist Linda Tirado in the US and her British counterpart Jack Monroe, a self-described budget cook who makes all her recipes available online for free, teaching everyone how to conjure up feasts for pennies using canned goods. And although Jack has several book deals below her belt, she’s once again struggling to make ends meet because she’s a freelancer, too. But she remains undaunted.
Reality comes at you fast, no matter how successful you may appear to be, not even if your entire life to date has been one crisis after another and you should be used to dealing with the unexpected by now.
If there’s one thing we cash-strapped folks are good at, it’s how to stretch a dollar and go without because we’re creative to a fault. Creativity isn’t some woo-woo force you can only tap into by lighting a scented candle, playing uplifting music, and reciting incantations in tongues.
Creativity is a universal and innate coping mechanism.
And that’s the reason why so many of us aren’t using confinement to reboot because, much as we desperately need to, we can’t afford to unplug. No human being is a tank though and what we most need is now is courage, not people paying lip service to a reality they’ve never known.
A virus is the great equalizer but the most vulnerable among us will not pull through unless we stick together. We’re all at the mercy of that thing no one quite understands yet, and we’re all somewhere on the spectrum between concerned and utterly terrified.
But we’re forging ahead regardless because what else are we going to do?
Making it to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to take more handholding than there are hands currently available for many but how we handle quarantine and define solidarity for the digital age will be a test of character and resourcefulness for us all.
We can create a gentler future for everyone if we put our hearts and minds together now while using the internet as a collective life line.
What if the pandemic were our cue to level up as humans?
US: Food Pantries + Food BanksCanada: Food Banks CanadaUK: The Trussell TrustFor all other EU countries: European Food Banks FederationWorldwide: The Global FoodBanking Network
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.