COVID-19 is ushering in a new form of privilege.
There are four adults in my home. We have five vehicles.
Late Wednesday night, I was driving home, sitting at a stoplight, and a bus came through the intersection. The header on the front of the bus said: “Essential Travel Only.”
On the bus, there was only one passenger. He sat four rows from the back, hood up, slouched, no mask. He looked young, probably in his early 20s. Why did he take the bus? Is he not worried about touching all those public surfaces? Does he even know about the extent of the coronavirus? Where is he going or coming from?
Earlier the same night, I walked to DQ. It was the first 80-degree day of the year here in Minnesota, and the heat had me craving a blizzard. Walking up to the building, I saw a huge line of families from around the neighborhood that had the same idea as me. A line that usually would have been no more than 40 feet long was stretched the length of the block to allow for six feet or more between each family.
As I approached, I reached into my bag and pulled out my face mask. Then I tied it around my face. I took my place at the end of the line and kept my distance from the other customers.
After a moment of standing there, I realized I was the only one wearing a mask. The only one with protection. Most of the families around me were members of the community; an old meatpacking town with a tradition of welcoming blue-collar, working-class families.
Their children peered around their parents’ shoulders to stare at me, both confused and a little curious. Everyone gave me second glances. I tried to smile, but I’m sure my mask hid the friendly grin on my face. All they saw was the partial pinch at the edge of my eyes.
Standing there I wondered, “Am I the weird one?” “Do I look like a germaphobe who is overreacting to the pandemic?” I realized how much the fabric covering my face separated me from the others—not only physically, but socially.
But then I also realized that most of the people in line are at higher risk of contracting and experiencing complications with COVID-19. Maybe that mom is looking at me wishing she had masks to protect her children. Maybe some of the families are foregoing a mask because of racial stereotypes. Maybe this is a new form of privilege I am experiencing right now.
The young man on the bus and I are living two very different experiences in the time of COVID. While he takes a necessary trip on public transit at 10 PM, I am sitting in my own car, mask on, purell in the cup holder, on my way to sit at home for the next three days straight.
It is a privilege to be able to self-isolate. It is a privilege to be able to wear a mask in public and sanitize your hands whenever you need to. It is a privilege to work from home. It’s a privilege even to have a job. So for the sake of those who do not have these privileges, let’s do our part to keep them safe and healthy too.
My challenge for myself, and for others reading this, is to find a way to help those who are unable to isolate right now or who need support during this time. What can you do today to help someone less privileged than you? Could you bring food to a food shelf? Can you donate money to help a family in need? Are you able to sew masks for the homeless community in your area?
Whatever the contribution, there are people struggling who would greatly appreciate your generosity. Let’s spread the love and help our neighbors.
Want to help others without leaving your home?
Check out Feeding America and donate to their COVID-19 relief fund. Your contribution will help feed families in need across the country. www.feedingamerica.org/take-action
Help a child continue to learn by donating to First Book, an organization that delivers over 7 million books to children in need who do not have internet access or home libraries. support.firstbook.org/give/275995/#!/donation/checkout
The Salvation Army is ensuring people have access to food, shelter, and child care. They set up drive-through food pickups, offer meals at their facilities, and provide snacks and hydration to first responders. You can help support their work by donating at www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/covid19/
Devon McGrath is an academic researcher turned podcast producer, content creator, and Director of Operations for Punk Rock HR. When she’s not working, you can find her roaming State Parks, hunting for a new great album to listen to, or sitting on the patio at a local brewery.