Let’s face it, most of us have never experienced days like these. The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live today – and perhaps forever. We strive to juggle new family schedules and working from home, and judicially follow the guidelines set forth by health professionals and government officials. Still, many of us want to do more than just “follow the rules.” We want to help, but how?

I’m inspired by stories of manufacturers large and small retooling their operations to increase the production of the items most in need. Men and women who made cars two weeks ago are now making ventilators. Others who produced and bottled bourbon and beer in March, are making hand sanitizer in April. Shoe companies and fashion houses are sewing face masks instead of high fashion and footwear. I love their “If they need it, we can make it” spirit!

I am amazed when I see healthcare workers from regions not yet impacted traveling to give a much-needed break to front-line professionals in hard-hit areas, working to ensure that everyone who needs help gets help. The process may not be perfect, but their selfless desire to step into the eye of the hurricane to do what they can is admirable. I’m not sure I could be so brave.

So, what can we do? There is a very real economic impact to all of this, so financially supporting charities and local businesses is important. If you have the financial resources to help by contributing to non-profits, buying gift cards for services to be used later, or ordering food for take-out or delivery, please consider doing so. Our communities will come back on more solid footing as a result of your generosity.

But we can be generous with our time and our talent as well. There are ways we can help each other that have little to no impact on us financially. These things can play an important role our mental well-being as we navigate through our “days of isolation” together. I’m talking about spreading joy at a time when we need it most. Following are a few ideas I’ve collected in recent days:

  • Consider writing notes, coloring pictures or making cards for those living in nursing homes who aren’t allowed to have visitors due to risk of exposure. A note of encouragement or child’s work of art could make them so happy – especially if they don’t ever receive mail. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just create or say what your heart is feeling! Nursing home staff can give them to residents who could use some joy. It’s easy – search out a facility in your area, ask if they would welcome some letters and get to work!
  • Chalk your walk! The next time you take a walk, take some chalk with you to write encouraging messages on the sidewalk. On a recent walk in my neighborhood I saw the message “You are loved.” What a great message – it felt good! You could also do the same on a wooden fence if you have one at your house. Encouraging messages such as “Be well,” “We’ve got this,” “We’re in this together,” or “Today is going to be a great day!” might be just what your neighborhood needs. It will wash off with the first rain but maybe lift some spirits while it lasts!
  • If you or someone in your family has musical talent, step outside and have a concert on your front lawn or walk along your street and play your instruments or sing (all with proper distancing from neighbors, of course). It’s kind of like Christmas caroling, but in the spring! Think of how happy a neighborhood filled with music could be! If you have an apartment with a balcony, step outside and have your concert there. I’ve been so moved by video I’ve seen from Italy where neighbors have done just that. When you’re feeling down, it will be the most beautiful music you hear all day. Is your community on total lockdown? Then consider recording something on video to share using social media as your platform. Your “concert from our house” may just exactly what someone needs.
  • Make a fun dance video to share with families and friends. Challenge them to do the same. Dance along at your house! Some friends of mine did this recently and it was not only super fun to watch (check it out), it has now been seen by millions of people around the world. Think of the memories you could make – and joy you can bring others. Because if you’re going to be together in the house for a while, you might as well make it fun!
  • Say thank you with more than thank you. When you make that rare trip out for groceries, run to the pharmacy or to pick-up restaurant food, tell the person serving you how much you appreciate them working during this time. Let them know you value the service they provide and that you are glad they are there. They may be anxious about doing a job out in public but need the work and want to be of assistance. It costs you nothing and could really make a difference. And while you’re at it, if you have school-aged children who are now attending “virtual school,” please consider a phone call, email or handwritten note of appreciation to the teachers, who like most of us, have had had their world turned upside down. I marvel at how quickly many were able to transition from a physical to a virtual classroom. Like with each of us, the arrangement is not ideal, but they are doing the best they can and would benefit from your gratitude and encouragement.

These are just a few ideas for how you can give back, but I know there are many more. I’d love to hear yours! We can’t all be on the medical front lines or working production in a manufacturing facility, but we can bring our respective communities, companies and nations out of these challenging times by demonstrating generosity, kindness and love for each other. Here’s hoping that part of our current experience never leaves us.