Even when we're living with Shelter-In-Place or Lockdown orders to protect the public health, we can continue sharing to help each other survive and thrive. It may be illegal or simply unwise to leave your home to share items during a shelter-in-place or lockdown order, but it is still perfectly legal to offer and request Gifts of Self that can be given and received via safely sheltered and socially-distanced methods. Put the many options for voice, text, and video connections to work - Your landline, your cell phone, Facebook Live, YouTube, Zoom, Google Docs, WhatsApp, and many other apps and devices enable you to reach out to people around the world to offer a wide variety of assistance.
Some Shelter-in-Place-Friendly Gift of Self ideas to get you started: - Are you great at math or another academic subject? Offer to tutor some of the many students in your neighborhood who are learning from home. You can arrange a video chat and/or Google doc sharing with parents, so that student's adults are looped into the conversation and connection. - Do you love to dance? Arrange a daily online dance party, and invite others to join you to shake it. Even a single song dance party is enough to get blood flowering and improve moods. - Do you play an instrument? Sing? Offer a free online concert. - Are you an artist? Writer? Get your Bob Ross on, teach someone your neighbors to paint happy little trees, or guide people through a daily creative writing prompt. - Love online games? Ask people in your social network to join you for anything from Words with Friends to Minecraft and beyond. - Like reading aloud? Read a chapter a day from one of your favorites, producing a DIY audiobook experience for people of all ages to enjoy. - Lead or participate in the movement that's offering free lockdown yoga classes, meditation, or Zoom calls people are having to share the experience with each other. - Start a poetry chain - Send your favorite poem to a friend and ask the to add one of theirs and pass it along, and so on.
- Share your pandemic playlists with the world via your favorite music app.
- Set up a daily tea and conversation chat, or a daily happy hour. Or both. Send out invitations to people you miss seeing in person, or even to people you don't know well yet.
- Start a book group that meets online. Send out questions via a shared Google Doc, and arrange a time to chat. Even if our local independent booksellers and online vendors have to stop shipping out paper books, we still have a huge selection of ebooks and audiobooks, and many public libraries loan these out through apps.
- Give to the world by participating in some Citizen Science! There are many options to choose from, some that are online and some that can be tackled while you're out on safe social distance walks. Visit SciStarter.org and use their finder tool to pick a project that interests you.
- Join the movement to make Personal Protective Equipment for our front line health care providers. There are many groups working on this, but there is also an incredible storm of divergent opinion about what styles and materials work best, and even whether DIY masks, hair covers, face shields, and surgical gowns are helpful or dangerous. If you'd like to help, we recommend our tried and true Person-to-Person method: Ask a health care provider you know exactly what they need and make exactly what they ask for.
If your local public health orders allow people to travel alone outside, there are some Gifts of Self you can offer to your neighbors: - If you're lucky enough to have a garden, offer a section to a neighbor to grow their own flowers and food. Schedule around each other so that everyone has safely solo gardening time. We're in the beginning of prime planting season in most of the Northern Hemisphere right now, so this is perfect timing and can help keep your neighbors happy and healthy. - Offer to pick up groceries, supplies, and medicine for people who are in high risk groups. Deliver things to doorsteps and remind recipients to follow current public health advice regarding treatment of all objects that come into our homes from the outside world.
Even if you don't have a skill to share, here's what we can all do: - Share our gratitude for the beauty we see around us, for our family, friends and neighbors, near and far, every day.
- Just. Connect. Offer the gift of conversation or daily check-ins to your social circle and to those who need a new social circle in these difficult days. We are in this together, alone, and knowing that someone is looking out for us, even with a quick check-in call or text, is truly important to our total health and wellness. It has been said that pandemics are the one disaster that drives people apart from each other. We have a chance to use Gifts of Self to hold the line against this tendency, to stay connected even as we must stay away from each physically. We can use these difficult days to lift each other up when the weight of things threatens to flatten our spirits. These Gifts of Self have always been a very important part of the Buy Nothing Project and movement, and this situation gives us each a chance to experiment with them, to see how much we are able to help each other in ways that truly aren't about our stuff at all. - Liesl Clark & Rebecca Rockefeller, founders of the Buy Nothing Project, an international network of local gift economy groups, and authors of the upcoming Atria Simon & Schuster book, The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan, your toolkit for a lifestyle that works perfectly during pandemics and better days as well. If you enjoyed this piece, please read our book - Your support will make it possible for us to continue our work to nourish gift economies around the world. Preorder a copy before April 14th and we'll send you a personalized signed bookplate - Details here.