Reflections on what we can learn from COVID-19, by Sari Steuber
These are difficult times for many of us. Our hearts go out to those who have been stricken with the COVID-19 disease or have lost loved ones to it, to those who are struggling economically because of losing their incomes, and to those who are working long hours in dangerous conditions because their work is essential.
The Transition Town movement is about resiliency in the face of disasters and hardships such as this one. Sometimes, it takes a crisis to illuminate how resilient we are as a community. This pandemic, and our responses to it, can teach us much, and paying attention now to what’s working or not will make us better prepared for the next crisis.
It’s heartening to see there is much evidence that our community is strong and caring enough to want to help us all make it through this. From early on, the urge to pitch in and help each other stay safe was sparklingly evident. When told that washing hands and keeping six feet away from each other was necessary, we started practicing these habits. When face masks were in critical shortage, people who could sew immediately started making them and giving them away. Business owners dutifully closed their stores at great cost to themselves and did what they could to take care of their employees. Those who could stay open made drastic changes to their operations to be able to continue working safely.
How do we cultivate resilience in the midst of crisis? How do we weather all the changes and even build a better future from the learning that is born now? How can we find enough respite to be able to see the silver linings?
In the midst of struggle, under the strain of uncertainty, please know you are never alone. “Look for the helpers”—there is an abundance in our community. The Media Borough website has links to local, county, state, and national resources. Delaware County Council has frequent updates on the status of local health and business resources. Here are some tips to bolster your personal resilience.
Get out in nature. One of the most effective things that can reduce our stress levels and bring us joy and serenity is being in nature. How fortuitous that we’re experiencing an early Spring! We encourage you to get outdoors in natural settings as often as you can. Our state, county, and local parks are open for walking and biking. Breathe in the clean, fragrant air.
Enjoy the Spring flowers, budding trees, and chirping birds. If you can’t get out, you can go to the TTM Facebook page or our Celebrate Happiness page for some stunning nature pictures. Even looking at pictures of nature has been shown to be beneficial!
Be creative. If you find yourself with more time on your hands, use it to do something creative. Making things with your hands, singing, dancing, or just plain laughing out loud with friends can bring you happiness and peace. The Media FreeStore Facebook group has cool ideas for repurposing objects that you may already have at home.
Practice gratitude. It’s been found that finding things to be grateful for each day improves your physical and mental health and makes you more resilient to disease. Stop for a few minutes each day to appreciate what you have—friends and family, fragrant Spring flowers, the kindness of strangers, whatever brings you a moment of joy, a respite from worry.
Stay socially connected. Our connections with the people around us, the people we care about, are crucial to our well-being. It’s important to maintain them even while physically distant. Be sure to wave, say hello, flash a heart sign to neighbors you pass while walking outside. Make sure to check in with seniors in your neighborhood to find out if they’re ok, if they need anything from the store, if they just want to talk to someone. Hang out with your neighbors—pull chairs outside on nice evenings and have a “happy hour,” each in your own front yard. Have a Zoom party with your friends—share jokes, play charades, sing your favorite songs, all online.
Support and look out for each other. Helping each other is another strong human need and it surfaces most in times of trouble. There are so many people in need right now and so many people rushing in to help—making face masks, bringing food to hospital workers pulling long shifts, finding creative ways to work and serve people while keeping everyone safe.
Here are a few great examples of what local folks have put together to help other local folks:
- The web designers at Media Proper have set up a web page of gift cards you can buy to a local business or restaurant that’s currently closed or doing limited business. These cards can be redeemed at some future date when the business can return to normal operations. Like Community-Supported Agriculture, it’s a way to pay ahead, helping the business make it during a slow time and getting the rewards later.
- Media Neighbors Grocery Shopping Co-op is a group for neighbors who can not grocery shop due to high risk for contracting COVID-19 or other limitations, connecting them with neighbors who are willing and available to make grocery trips in exchange for a delivery fee.
The goals are to ensure that anyone who identifies as high risk can stay home, and that folks who are out of work or have lost income have a viable means of contributing to the community while being paid fairly. If you need help with your grocery shopping, visit their Facebook page.
- When we decided to shutter the Media FreeStore early in the course of the COVID trajectory, we knew it would be sorely missed by those who have come to rely on it as a source (and destination) for sharing daily household items, and as a community oasis. Luckily, we had a backup resource.
Eight years ago, Transition Town Media created a Facebook group designed to facilitate collaborative consumption in and around Media. Called TTM Swap, Share, Meet, the group has kept many an item from landfills or incineration, inspired the Media FreeStore, and helped grow and strengthen our local community.
Now, more than ever, these kinds of community connections and their resulting mutual aid are essential. We invite you to join our TTM Swap group. Members should live, work, or have other strong ties to Media and the immediately surrounding area (a five-mile radius from the DelCo Courthouse is a good rule of thumb) and wish to use social media to leverage their commitment to real reciprocal community connections. Please request membership here. You will be prompted to answer three short questions. These questions are required for membership, so be sure to answer all three!
Emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic test us as individuals and as a community. In order to survive it, we must rely on our individual resources and resilience, but we need to also pull together as a community. One lesson that stands out from this experience is how interconnected we all are.
The #Masks4All video from Czechoslovakia points out that wearing a face mask doesn’t really protect you from the germs of others, but it does protect the people you encounter from your germs. If we all wear them, then we’re all protected—”you protect me, I protect you.” And if we’re not all safe, none of us are safe. What better symbol of solidarity uplifting everyone!
Maybe you’ve noticed there have been some silver linings to this disaster. Things have slowed down significantly for many of us. Traffic has diminished so that the streets are more passable. The air is clearer without all the pollution generated by our modern industry. Families are together more, kids are home with their parents and they’re finding creative ways of doing things together. And best of all, people are moved to help each other, look out for each other. Not having all the usual ways of being around people—at work, at church, at school—we’re finding new ways to reach out, and discovering just how much we need connections to thrive, how much we’re in this together and how the only way we can make it is together.
Eventually, things will begin to get “back to normal.” What kind of “normal” do we want to get back to? Will we transform with new habits that we like well enough to hang onto once we don’t have to anymore? Or will we just slide back into the old “business-as-usual”? Which would you prefer?