Inequality has existed in our community since long before the coronavirus pandemic, and — unfortunately — it will endure long after it ends.
But the pandemic has exploited the cleavages in society, widening gaps that were already present and threatening the livelihoods of people who were just getting by before.
State data shows that the coronavirus has hit communities of color and working-class areas harder than the rest. A simple ZIP code analysis shows that places like Forest Grove and Cornelius have seen comparatively higher case counts than more affluent cities like Beaverton and Tigard. Portland west of the Willamette River and on the Inner Eastside is far better off than the more diverse, lower-income ZIPs east of 82nd Avenue.
The essential workers whose labor keeps our society going during this time are predominately working-class. Even in the medical field, they're not just the well-educated doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists — they're the paramedics, orderlies and pharmacy techs, too, whose jobs don't come with distinguished-sounding titles and six-figure salaries. And they're the people stocking shelves and checking groceries at your local Fred Meyer and Safeway, pumping your gas, cleaning out the storm drains in front of your home, picking up your garbage and recycling, driving buses, dropping off your delivery, and responding when you call 9-1-1.
You may be one of the many, many people who is struggling right now.
Tens of thousands of Oregonians have tested positive for the virus, and well over 1,000 have died from it, touching the lives of many people in the Portland area and across the state.
Tens of thousands of Oregonians have lost their jobs or seen their work hours reduced, or they're finding it harder to line up a paying gig. Many more are having to choose between their family's safety and putting food on the table.
And hundreds of thousands of Oregonians are grappling with the closure of schools. It's now going on nine months since the last time most students in Oregon were in a classroom. This is a shared sacrifice intended to keep both school staff and families safe — although some private schools, daycares and Montessori preschools continue to operate in person — but the effects of keeping kids home for this long won't be fully understood for years to come.
All of this is to say that if you're not in a position to give, we understand — and if you're hurting now, you're not alone.
For those of us who are doing all right, though, the spirit of charity and generosity is needed more this holiday season than perhaps ever before.
Many organizations in our area are doing good. They include food banks and pantries. They include clothes closets and thrift stores. They include churches and religious organizations. And there are groups like Medical Teams International in Tigard, which was founded with a mission of providing healthcare in war-torn and famine-stricken parts of the world but has found a calling during this pandemic to help underserved communities right here in Oregon; Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Cornelius, which specializes in serving farmworkers and others who have difficulty accessing healthcare; Pacific University in Forest Grove, which operates mobile dental and eyecare clinics as the need for those services continues unabated; and more.
There is so much need in the world we live in today. And there are many who are struggling now but still hold out hope that as this pandemic is wrestled under control, hopefully next year with the wave of vaccines now being rolled out, they will be able to return to their jobs and recoup their losses and get on with their lives. They may need a helping hand.
In the end, this isn't about "handouts" or "giveaways." This is about lending people a helping hand, so that when they stumble, they can remain on their feet.
Digging out from this storm will be a community effort. Let's ensure there are as many hands on deck as possible.
If you know someone who could use some support right now, reach out to them. And if you don't know where to start, try starting small: a modest gift, just what you're comfortable with giving, to a group you know and trust, whether it's your church or your local food bank or an employee relief fund.
The days are getting darker, and there are some very dark days still to come. But even as we remain apart, we are in this together.
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