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Last night before I fell asleep, I browsed through my Instagram feed, where I saw individuals complaining about boredom during the Covid-19 quarantine as they relaxed by their beautiful pools.
That seemed extremely out of touch with all of the misery and suffering experienced by most of the world at this difficult time. Reflecting on the Baha’i teachings, I remembered this beautiful motivational quote from Abdu’l-Baha:
Strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute! – Paris Talks
So I decided to focus all my efforts on how I could best serve humanity during the difficult days ahead. I researched five ways those of us who have the time or resources can help:
1. Donate or Volunteer at a Food Bank or Blood Bank
If you are in a lower-risk demographic, and do not have contact with anyone over 60 years old or with a compromised immune system, this is an excellent way to serve. At my local food bank, the volunteer rate has dropped 75% due to the high population of seniors who can no longer volunteer. Food banks and soup kitchens are in urgent need of individuals who can package and serve food and clean facilities. If you fall under the category where you cannot volunteer, you can offer a monetary donation to a food bank, homeless shelter or soup kitchen – which for $1 can provide up to five meals. In the United States, Feeding America is a wonderful organization aimed at eliminating hunger especially for the most vulnerable population, children whose schools are closed and who are no longer receiving free or reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches. The United Nation’s World Food Programme offers food relief and nutritional services for those experiencing hunger. Feed the World is a non-profit organization whose aim is to provide sustainable faming for disadvantaged communities around the globe. Additionally, the Red Cross is in desperate need of blood donations due to a severe blood shortage.
2. Volunteer Remotely
Many volunteer opportunities exist for those of us unable to physically get out and help. Here is a brief list of organizations that offer options for remote volunteering:
- Alone: Alone serves older individuals at home. You can become a telephone volunteer who calls and checks in with the elderly a few times per week.
- Crisis Text Line and Suicide Prevention Hotline: These organizations provide the opportunity to be a remote crisis counselor who offers emotional support for those in distress and trauma.
- iCouldBe: iCouldBe is a student mentorship program for individuals to assist and tutor students. Many students are completing their studies online and will benefit from the extra guidance and support.
- UPchieve.org is a free tutoring service for low income high school students, focusing on STEM and college coaching. Many students are completing their studies online and will benefit from the extra guidance and support.
3. Support Your Community
If you have a neighbor or loved one who is unable to run errands, offer to pick up their groceries or prescriptions and leave them on their doorstep:
With hearts set aglow by the fire of the love of God and spirits refreshed by the food of the heavenly spirit you must go forth as the disciples nineteen hundred years ago, quickening the hearts of men by the call of glad tidings, the light of God in your faces, severed from everything save God. Therefore, order your lives in accordance with the first principle of the divine teaching, which is love. Service to humanity is service to God. Let the love and light of the Kingdom radiate through you until all who look upon you shall be illumined by its reflection. Be as stars, brilliant and sparkling in the loftiness of their heavenly station. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
4. Reach Out to the Elderly
Due to increasing self-quarantine, the elderly are at high risk for isolation and depression. Many senior care facilities now prohibit visitors, which increases the need for creative ways to love and support the elderly. You can send flowers and cards to nursing homes, but be sure to contact the location first regarding their protocol. Organizations such as Love for the Elderly encourage individuals to write anonymous letters to elders around the world. Alone serves older individuals at home. You can become a telephone volunteer who calls and checks in with the elderly a few times per week.
5. Practice Self-Care
This may initially sound selfish, but now is the time to show yourself the love and compassion you require to stay healthy and well. Try this: take 10 minutes every day to do something that delights you. I love to bike ride and take in all of the gorgeous sights around me. Maybe you enjoy reading, dancing, watching funny movies, etc. Whatever it is, keep your spirits up. Find your joy and hold on to it. Now more than ever, the world needs your light:
Joy gives us wings. In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks