I squished my eyes closed to stop the tears. If they started, I knew they wouldn’t stop. I stood in the Walmart parking lot in the rain, trying to fold up a stroller that requires an MIT engineering degree to operate. I was sweating, but I couldn’t take my coat off because that would reveal the spit up all down the front of my shirt.
Inside the car, my one-month-old was screaming his head off. It was time to eat, and I wasn’t there. At home, my husband was waiting for me to bring dinner. He was confined to the couch after a forklift ran over his foot at work. It broke in three places and sent him home for eight weeks.
My phone rang. It was my mother, calling to tell me what the doctor said about her burns. Shortly after I gave birth, she was sitting next to a space heater when her shirt caught fire and gave her third-degree burns all over her back.
You can’t make this stuff up.
In the course of a month, I had a 35-hour labor ending in an emergency c-section, and I became the full-time caregiver of my newborn son, maimed husband and four dogs. I was wet, stressed and completely exhausted.
And the stroller wouldn’t fold up.
The elderly woman came up to me and said, “I haven’t done this in a while, but we’ll get it.” I don’t know if she heard the baby crying or saw just how close to a meltdown I was, but she stopped and helped me get the stroller base folded. It was a simple act, helping a new mother get her stroller in the car, but in that moment, it saved me from an epic breakdown in the Walmart parking lot.
Opportunity for Kindness
All across the world, people are going through much worse things than I was in that moment. We’re on the verge of a pandemic, and it’s just an added stress to people who are already going through a lot.
Here’s the thing, though. This is also a chance for you to get out of your comfort zone and show some kindness to strangers.
Some people have already started. A butcher in England promised to put together a two-week survival package for anyone who had to self-quarantine due to the virus.
One Vietnamese woman is doing her part to spread the love by handing out care packages to her community, and Jennifer Le is giving away masks in her city in Singapore because there’s a shortage. “We may be different nationalities, but we’re all just people,” Jennifer said. “I know a lot of people only care about themselves. … Of course you must take care of yourself first, but after you have enough, you can help other people.”
Others — and we feel like we shouldn’t have to say this — are encouraging kindness by not hoarding cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer.
“Give priority to those who need it,” said Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister, Chan Chun Sing. “The public health agencies and the workers in the front line, as well as the vulnerable in our society. Never succumb to the short-term fears and panic-buying and hoarding behaviour, as it would destroy the system that we have.”
How You Can Help
Since we’ve established that hoarding supplies does not help the situation, here are a few things that will.
- Help your elderly friends and neighbors: You can do this even when there isn’t a virus spreading, but even more so when there is an outbreak. Take care of their yards, take out the trash or even just check on them every few days.
- Keep spirits up: Send a few text messages to those who are in quarantine to remind them you’re thinking of them.
- Don’t spread bad information: Take the time to double check that infographic before you share it on Facebook.
- Share: If you’ve always been a little bit of a hoarder — no judgment, we are too — then you might have a pretty good stash of things around your house. Now is the time to break into your emergency supply and help your neighbors find soap, sanitizer and cleaner if they need it.
For more ideas on how to help, click here.
Even if you don’t have opportunities like these to show kindness, just look for the mother struggling with the stroller. Help her fold it, don’t touch the baby and tell her she’s doing a good job. That might be all she needs that day.
By Jessie Harbin
TRIBAL Insight: Perhaps you’ve heard this quote from Fred Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” In these times of uncertainty, how can you be a helper? People everywhere are looking for and need helpers. What are some ways you can safely be a helper to someone in your community? Share your ideas here and let us know when you see someone else helping, too!
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