OP/ED: ‘We’ Not ‘Me’

In a time of chaos, remember that we're always stronger together.

In my brief life, I can not recall living through such a surreal time. Within the COVID-19 crisis, it has left humanity vulnerable and bare. Perhaps it is growing up and watching people face the unknown, but that protective layer that lies on top of many of us is gone.
 
When crises arrive, it’s easy to resort to barbaric and greedy natures, where in our attempt to “save” ourselves, we leave those who are even more vulnerable stranded. In a time of panic and uncertainty, we need to realize something: a community is always stronger than the individual.
 
If you have not realized it, now might be a wonderful time to acknowledge that you cannot rely on people who don’t know you to take care of you. It is up to us to take care of our fellow people. While it is easy to only worry about yourself and your immediate circle, situations like this leave many by themselves.
 
I stumbled upon a tweet that made me think about this:
 
“‘Schools are closing? Where do I send my children?’ ‘How do I afford healthcare?’ ‘I can’t afford to take off work!’ ‘I don’t have guaranteed housing if I leave school!’”
 
And I should clarify: it’s not inherently selfish to focus on your loved ones, it makes sense. What I plea for is to think about those who don’t have the same access to resources in this dangerous time. Is the stock market falling a bad thing? Sure, maybe for the billionaires, who will still be billionaires regardless of what happens, but not for the average working-class person. Now, not being able to work and pay rent or provide for oneself/family? That is the real issue we need to pay attention to.
 
I lost my house in Hurricane Sandy in fall 2012. Displaced and homeless for a few months, it forced my single mother to commute multiple hours across Long Island every day to ensure that my sister and I could sleep with a roof over our heads and food to eat.
 
Without the community we had to move to accept us with open arms, I can’t say that I know what would’ve happened to us. These weren’t people doing this for pay, or because it brought glory to their lives, but because a community is only as strong as its weakest member.
 
While a hurricane and a global epidemic might sound different from their core, they affect us the same way. Whether it be the homeless, the old, the working-class, the single parents, or any other group out there, disaster often spells the same fate for us.
 
Even with the presidential election coming up, we need to understand that electing one official will not save us. While it would be ignorant to act like it doesn’t matter at all, only a community itself knows how to take care of itself.
 
Mutual aid and powerful communities have and will make sure that we all get through the coronavirus crisis together. The coronavirus probably won’t affect you, but homelessness and unemployment may. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one succeeds, we all succeed.
 
For example, look to volunteer with your local food bank. If you’re afraid of going out, donate a few bucks. If you don’t even want to do that, at least share that information on social media, or with someone who may need it. Groups like Food Not Bombs, No Kids Hungry, and Meals on Wheels are the ones making a difference and saving lives. Not some politician in D.C. who doesn’t know you or the struggles you face on a day-to-day basis.
 
If you enjoy going to small gigs, like me, you probably have had a show or two canceled or rescheduled. With that, go buy a shirt or some merchandise; it’ll help to make up a piece of the money they’re losing out on. Or, you could always just shout them out (go listen to Oso Oso, Tiny Moving Parts, Just Friends, Prince Daddy & The Hyena, and all the supporting artists.)
 
Even at the simplest level, order food from your local restaurants. Help a friend who isn’t able to work. Literally anything.
 
To quote Hopper from A Bug’s Life, “You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life!”
 
When this virus passes over, and life goes back to “normal,” keep this in mind: We control our own fate. When we divide ourselves, we’re useless. But when we focus on the “we” instead of “me,” we’re unstoppable.