๐‹๐จ๐ฏ๐ž ๐˜๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐๐ž๐ข๐ ๐ก๐›๐จ๐ซ ๐‚๐ก๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ž๐ง๐ ๐ž

#loveyourneighborFNE

2020 has been rough and has touched us all in some way, regardless of what you think about masks, vaccines, the election, how loud things feel on social media, and everything in between. Itโ€™s just been a hard year. One of the first post I did on this page (when I had 4 comments and 3 were from my mom – moms are awesome) was on loving our neighbors and why that matters with a virus like COVID-19. I believed (I still do) that our way out of this would be loving our neighbors through self-less acts of empathy and solidarity. As a population health scientist, I also knew the pandemic would affect peopleโ€™s health, which in and of itself is hard, but would then affect peopleโ€™s businesses/jobs, our kidโ€™s schooling, our grandparentโ€™s isolation, and lots of peopleโ€™s mental health if things got really bad.

And, unfortunately, we are seeing that happen โ€“ and, some are being affected in more ways than one. Some of you lost your jobs or small businesses early on in the pandemic or are struggling to continue. Some of you are up worrying at night wondering how youโ€™re going to feed your kids or pay for a hospital bill – or both. Some of you are worried about your family member who works as an ICU nurse. Some of you are having a hard time because you havenโ€™t seen your 90 year-old dad who is alone in a long-term care facility โ€“ and you canโ€™t be there. Some of you have lost family members this year, COVID and non-COVID related. Some of you are struggling with mental health issues and/or know someone who is. Some of you have lost friendships over mask debates. Some of you are worried about your teenager’s depression. Some of you are mommas of littles that are stuck at home and are exhausted. Some of youโ€ฆI could go on and on from the stories that you all have shared with me in this FNE community. We can debate all the ins-and-outs about why all of this happened for another day when this is over. For now, we rally.

๐–๐ž ๐œ๐š๐งโ€™๐ญ ๐Ÿ๐ข๐ฑ ๐ž๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ๐ฒ๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ง๐ . ๐๐ฎ๐ญ, ๐ฐ๐ž ๐œ๐š๐ง ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐๐จ ๐ฌ๐จ๐ฆ๐ž๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ง๐  – ๐ฐ๐ž ๐œ๐š๐ง ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฏ๐ž ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐ง๐ž๐ข๐ ๐ก๐›๐จ๐ซ๐ฌ. ๐–๐ž ๐œ๐š๐ง ๐ซ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ฒ ๐š๐ซ๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐ ๐จ๐ง๐ž ๐š๐ง๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ.

So, hereโ€™s what Iโ€™m asking us to do โ€“ letโ€™s do the Love Your Neighbor Challenge. These are small acts of kindness that will add up to our family, friends, and community. If the world and debates and yelling on FB and 2020 feels loud, maybe our kindness and empathy can be louder. If our constant-decision-making-about-everything feels exhausting, maybe this can be a brief balm. It wonโ€™t fix everything (this is not fake-pollyana) and definitely wonโ€™t end all argumentsโ€“ but, it will matter to the people we reach out to.

๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธ๐–๐ก๐จโ€™๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐ข๐ญ๐ก ๐ฆ๐ž? ๐ˆ๐Ÿ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฐ๐š๐ง๐ญ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ฉ๐š๐ซ๐ญ๐ข๐œ๐ข๐ฉ๐š๐ญ๐ž, ๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐žโ€™๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ˆ ๐ฐ๐š๐ง๐ญ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ญ๐จ ๐๐จ:

โœ… 1. Share this post – This is not an exhaustive list and feel free to add to the 6 categories.

โœ… 2. Tag someone(s) in the comments who has done a great job at this already or who might need some encouragement! Tag a friend who reached out to encourage you, a healthcare worker who took care of your family member, a momma who is doing the best she canโ€ฆ.This little FNE community is getting louder at encouraging one another in the comments. So, letโ€™s hear it!

โœ… 3. Make your plan (part of my plan is below). This does not have to be extravagant or only involve financial help to others. Many of us can help financially and many of us can’t this year. We can all do something though. Simple kindness and checking in on one another matters too! Sometimes a text or a call are all someone needs.

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘ Maybe kindness and empathy can be louder at the end of 2020 than the noise from the rest of the year.

-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist

***A note to the FNE community: I have watched you rally around one another more and more lately. Someone commented a few weeks ago about feeling like she was alone for various reasons – many of you rallied around her in solidarity. Someone else commented about being fearful because they wouldn’t be able to get a vaccine due to a really rare genetic disorder – I saw many of you comment and say, “That’s why I’m getting the vaccine! To protect you.” Someone else commented that they were a pilot who will transport the vaccines this week – many of you said a ton of “Thank yous”. These are simple, simple acts to individuals that won’t make the news or go viral. But, they matter, don’t they! =) Not all comments are good. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But the love-your-neighbor ones are getting louder. We’ll get back to science tomorrow – for now, let’s rally.***

โœ… Hereโ€™s part of my #loveyourneighborFNE plan:

Local businesses/restaurants โ€“ My family and I have decided to only buy Christmas presents from local businesses this year. Several of these businesses will ship directly from their websites to our extended family, so you donโ€™t have to physically go to the store or worry about shipping โ€“ but, you can still support! We also do take-out. Remember to still leave a tip! We could also support our local businesses through buying giftcards. Another idea is to pay for the personโ€™s meal behind you in the drive-thru. Did you hear about the recent pay-it-forward at Dairy Queen? Those are small acts that make huge differences in 2020.

Healthcare workers โ€“ Send a text, write a note, do a hospital-parking-lot-car-horn-party or sing from the balconies during hospital shift-changes (remember those!) like we did at the beginning, send a meal from a local restaurant. Remember the cafeteria workers, janitorial staff, nurses, techs, social workers, NPs, administrative/leadership personnel, etc. I heard from our local doctor to send a text or a note and include that you don’t expect a response – you simply want to say thank you. =)

Family or friends who feel alone โ€“ โ€œHey Granddad! Wanna see some hope?โ€ See this post for that fun story: https://tinyurl.com/yyrqootl =) Call, Facetime, Video-chat, make a card, simply say โ€œthinking of youโ€. Check in on someone you know feels isolated for whatever reason. Put a sticky-note on a neighbor’s car or door. Video-chat with someone who just needs someone to cry with. If you feel alone, reach out to a friend.

Teachers โ€“ Iโ€™ve been told by my teacher friends that they love gift cards. =) So, we are doing gift cards as teacher gifts to our favorite local bookstore and cookie place this year. And, a simple email to the teachers goes a long way too.

Essential workers โ€“ Say โ€œthank youโ€ to those working in jobs where staying home is not optional: retail, cashiers, mail services, police officers, etc. People can still tell youโ€™re smiling through a mask. Kindness goes a long way these days – especially to cashiers who are being yelled at. Send a meal from a local restaurant to your local mechanic shop if you can.

Neighbors in your community โ€“ Poverty and food insecurity in the country has sky-rocketed with many families. Those that were already on the margins are really struggling. And, many others are finding themselves on the margins. The easiest thing we can do is donate whatever we can to our local food pantry and community-based organizations – many of which are struggling to keep food on the shelves in 2020. There are many, many, many more. Wearing a mask, staying home, and distancing are also efforts Iโ€™m committing to doing. These are the easiest ways to selflessly protect my own family, but also families in my community.

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