If you told me two weeks ago that a Facebook group could save the world, I never would have believed you. I was sitting in a meeting at my church (I’m a pastor, but I try to be one of the good ones that loves everybody and doesn’t try to make you become a Christian and just wants to help heal what’s broken in the world.), and we were trying to figure out what we would do if we couldn’t gather as a community for worship anymore because of COVID-19. Moving worship online was a no-brainer, but how could we help people stay connected and keep supporting each other during this unprecedented time?
I decided to try starting a little Facebook group called Pandemic Partners-Bend. The about section read:
Welcome to Pandemic Partners-Bend. We want to be able to respond to emerging needs of our neighbors during this challenging time.
It’s simple – if you need help, ask. If you can help, respond out of the goodness of your heart.
This can include running errands, picking up groceries, getting help with technology to stay connected to loved ones, etc.
In a time where fear can be overwhelming, we choose kindness, generosity, and love for our neighbors. We believe that we belong to each other and that we will get through this best as we help one another.
I invited my friends from our town and had a couple of my friends invite their friends. In twelve hours, we had more than 3,000 members join. Numbers are cool and all, but I started crying when I read one of the first requests for help: an older gentleman was afraid to go into the grocery store and risk exposure, so would someone please meet him, shop for him, and put his groceries in the trunk? The response was staggering – in just moments the community flooded him with offers to help – and I thought to myself…this just might work.
It’s been two weeks and you know what? It keeps working! We’ve created space for 10,000+ people in our town to connect and help each other in these small, essential, meaningful ways. It may not seem like much to get groceries for someone, or help someone set up their phone so they can speak to their loved ones, or try to make sure a homebound mama has her immunocompromised kiddo’s favorite honey on hand.
A journalist asked me if all this makes a difference. I said:
“Dropping off groceries in the midst of a pandemic? A drop in the bucket. Delivering someone’s mail? A drop in the bucket. Loving our neighbor? A drop in the bucket. Do you know how you get a full bucket? A whole lot of drops. And we will keep being drops in the bucket. Because that’s how we heal the world.”
We have all these people crowdsourcing kindness, in the midst of this tragedy that has leveled all of us to our humanity. We are bridging those invisible gaps of privilege and power in our society by connecting with each other and realizing that we are all human and worthy of dignity and respect and love. We are seeing our local nonprofits and social service agencies and governments and politicians collaborate more than I could have ever imagined – because all of a sudden, working for the common good means we’re working for our individual good, too. We’re all in this together, and the only way we make it through is by finding ways to be extravagantly accountable to one another: staying home when we feel healthy, buying groceries for strangers, taking time out of our lives to actually see each other and reach out and respond in love when we know there’s a need.
Kindness is more contagious than any virus could ever be. When we feel most powerless, like the whole world is against us, that’s when we can remember we have more power than we know. We can remember that we are good and loved, and that we have goodness and love to offer others.
Now we’re seeing this Pandemic Partners “Crowdsourcing Kindness” movement take off, and we are doing our best to help get more and more groups started in communities around the world – there are around 20 groups branded with the Pandemic Partners name and logo but many, many more who are using our model and tools to help their communities – and that’s all that matters! We’ve developed a “Launch Kit” of resources on https://pandemic.partners/ that contains a whole bunch of helpful tools that can help get new groups up and running. We’ve made that free to the public, along with coaching from me to get started, so that more and more people can empower their neighbors to Crowdsource Kindness.
I have a new friend that leads a group like ours in Geraldton, Australia. He wrote to the rest of the Admins in our network the other night and simply said, “G’day y’all from downunder. I want to encourage you that tomorrow does exist, because it has already arrived in Australia!” In this unprecedented time, when fear and anxiety are our constant companions, this is the message that kindness teaches us – tomorrow does exist, and it’s arriving all the time. We are bringing sunrise with every act of service, every loving gesture, every connection we make with another human being, every choice we make for the sake of the common good.
I don’t know if Facebook groups called Pandemic Partners are saving the world, but I know that the people in those groups are saving each other. We can all save each other, one kindness at a time. That’s how we heal the world, and there are a million ways to do it. I just kind of unintentionally chose to do it through a Facebook group – and every evening when I say goodnight to our online community I am in awe that I get to type the words: It’s working.