Even Amid the Pandemic, Reasons To Give Thanks
As our nation still reels from a pandemic that has exacerbated the abject homelessness and hunger crises, it is amazing how holiday rituals go unabated. It’s that time of year when we still fill our shopping carts with Thanksgiving turkeys large enough to bench press and enough trimmings to last for weeks. By next Wednesday, we will gridlock roadways and pack the airports once again, en route to family gatherings. And many of us will still get up bright and early on Thursday morning to volunteer making traditional dinners and distribute them to people we may see only once this year.
Money is meager, and times are tight—so much so that some people who once visited food banks to drop off items now go to retrieve them. The lingering pandemic has left us frustrated, drained, grieved and challenged. It has given rise to new terms such as COVID anxiety and Zoom fatigue. And it has shown us how you never miss something as simple as human contact until you cannot make it.
Yet the pandemic has also demonstrated that no matter what divides us, the spirit of giving is the bond that keeps us together. The pandemic has given rise to innovation and improvisation, as we’ve pivoted from in-person contact to virtual to back to in-person. We’ve conjured up new and bold ways to embrace outreach and help communities and people experiencing homelessness, eviction, job loss and other crises. If nothing else, the pandemic has, hopefully, made us stronger and more eager to address longstanding issues COVID has amplified.
United Way of King County has been at the forefront of addressing those issues well before the pandemic and will continue to do so well after COVID is behind us. We have pivoted and improvised in ways that are worth noting and may have altered the approach to food donations with our DoorDash program, making it possible for people to have items delivered from food banks to their doors.
Some of those deliveries will be made during Thanksgiving week, and others are made weekly to children at 12 affordable housing sites and schools across Washington. To address racial inequities and the disproportionate impact on communities of color, 70 percent of our delivery recipients identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color.
Many people will spend their Thanksgiving seeking adequate shelter or scrambling to stay in their homes. Our Home Base program provides rental assistance, so people don’t fall behind in rent or end up with a mountain of debt to repay after COVID. Our Streets to Home program works with people experiencing homelessness to set them on a path of upward mobility by quickly getting them into housing and connecting them with employers.
As we are reminded of Thanksgiving rituals that have withstood the pandemic, we should be thankful for the spirits of gratitude, innovation and giving that feed and fuel us like no helpings of cornbread stuffing can. If there is a post-pandemic “normal” to return to, that spirit will get us there.