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We'll get through this, but some of us are harder hit by the pandemic than others.

Amie RileyThere may be a stimulus check coming directly to your bank account today, and if you don't need it, you should give it to someone who does.

I know. It's really scary right now. It's moving so fast and so slowly, so little psychological security. So many unknowns, so many changes. You can't hug your friends. You can't care for your parents. You can't get away from your kids.

I wake up in the morning, and I wonder what world-shaking news will be announced today. Will it be more news from Michigan, New York, or the next hot spot, where hundreds fall dead in days? Or will it come from one of my oldest friends trapped on the wrong side of a closed border, in Guatemala City with no money and far from her home in rural Nicaragua?

This morning is quiet because I woke up before my toddler to kiss my partner goodbye. He's a physician assistant headed back to the urgent care for a 12-hour shift of COVID-19 cases, all the normal broken bones and stitches, and waves of terrified people with a cough. He will come home tonight after our babe is fast asleep again, and he will leave his badge in the car, his shoes on the back porch, and deposit every stitch of clothing directly into the washer, before a scalding shower. The heat is for the nerves, ramping up over the weeks in his combat veteran's heart. The system is to keep me and my daughter safe, because he's sure he will eventually contract the virus no matter what he does, especially if they run out of masks tomorrow.

And as I sit here in the cold spring morning, worrying and rapid-scanning the news, it hits me again how safe I actually am. The coffee. The computer. The sleeping baby. The hot water. The washing machine. The back porch. The car. The job to go to.

There is more money than usual in our bank account for all the missed dinners and coffees out. What about you? Have you said goodbye for a time to those competent and caring people, the ones that create ease and joy in your life? What do the pantries look like for those who care for your children, clean your house, cut your dog's nails, build your fence, mow your lawn, dye your hair? For me, it's the ones who made that last great cocktail, filled the rooms with music, drove us home from the bar.

And what about the people who were already left behind? What about the human lying in that sidewalk sleeping bag on your walk to work, the undocumented farmer who brought the fruit to your fridge, entire communities of color chased from their neighborhoods by bad policy and skyrocketing rents, the refugees at our border, without even a country to call their own right now? Will the stimulus check be enough? To survive? Will they even get one?

My family is feeling fear and stress because of daily active exposure to risk, and our community has been extraordinary, offering outpourings of time and service and care. And so we will give this money away. It is the way we can give back to those caring for us, to those we care about. For us, it is simply a profound opportunity for mutually transformative reciprocity.

I know it's scary, and if you need that check, because most of us need that check, please keep it. A universal basic income at this time is a powerful, laudable policy. It feels like something we are getting right, in a sea of fear and mistakes. Things are breaking and they were already broken, and I shout from the rooftops that even more should be done. But if you don't actually need it, like those extra 96 rolls of toilet paper you scared yourself into buying, don't keep it. There is so much need, even giving some of it would matter.

Please. Give it if you can.

There are so many in need, so many organizations rallying to respond. If you're curious about where to share your check, ask around. Your city, neighbors or friends might know exactly who needs support right now. And don't overthink it. It's just sharing.

Let us make real our declared American ethics of sacrifice, service and community. Let us take all the chances we can to offer radical mutual aid to one another, to simply care for one another in every way that we can. Maybe it'll be that one moment you look back on after we can all hug each other again, and think that something good happened in all this. Maybe even more people left to hug.

Amie Riley is an instructor with the Portland State University's College of Education and University Studies; co-coordinator of the PSU Sustainability Leaders Network and a doctoral candidate in educational leadership and policy.


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