Guest Column: We must all hold onto our humanity

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A tweet from the Dalai Lama caught my attention: “A deep awareness of the goodness of human beings, that they are essentially kind, helpful and gentle, can give us courage and hope.” 

And hope and courage are what we need now, when we all have to adapt ourselves and daily routines as COVID-19 has drastically changed our world.

We all know about the power of hope. However, as we go through this time of withdrawal and social distancing, we need to go a step further. We need the courage to act, to reach out when we need help and to actively reach out to those who need our help. 

Understanding that there are some among us who are more vulnerable than others and that there are some of us who are on the front lines makes us fully aware of the indisputable fact that we are interconnected.

In the past few weeks, I have witnessed hope and courage in action. We are more sensitive to the needs of those around us and as a small community this is very important. We are finding ways to support our local small businesses. We are providing meals for medical personnel and help with shopping and delivery of goods to our elderly. 

We assist those who are afraid to go out as they may have compromised immune systems and we bring meals and groceries to those who have fallen sick with coronavirus or quarantined themselves out of concern they may have been exposed.

Thinking about all the members of our community requires the full intention to let our light shine over those who are in the shadows or are too afraid to ask for help. They help our community behind the scenes, working in housekeeping, kitchens, farms, vineyards and other service industries. They mow our lawns and build our houses. 

We need to understand that caring for our local immigrant community is fundamental for the well-being and rebuilding of our businesses post-COVID-19. All of us have played an important role in the development of our towns. 

We should not let anybody be or feel completely disconnected. During emergencies a clear message needs to be delivered to everyone, in a language every member of our community understands. Always, especially during a crisis, providing language accessibility is necessary and the right thing to do. Our schools are doing it and I hope our local elected leaders begin to do so. 

I have to remind my kids all the time how we save lives by staying home. Their dad can help our neighbors with their grocery shopping so that they don’t expose themselves unnecessarily to the virus. We need to share multilingual hotlines, such as Stony Brook Department of Medicine at 631-638-1320 for anything related to COVID-19 and 1-844-863-9314 for the New York State Office of Mental Health. 

It warms my heart to see a constant flow of kindness throughout Southold Town to tackle food and nutrition safety. We all can help provide this service. It breaks my heart that our farmworkers and some immigrant families with children are dealing with the risk and fear of being evicted and even becoming homeless. 

Depending on seasonal jobs means that spring usually brings an income they didn’t have during winter. However, those who had jobs in the service industry lost them due to temporary closures and downsizing of businesses heavily impacted by COVID-19. People are practically without the possibility to cover any expense, and some don’t have access to a computer and Wi-Fi. It is thanks to institutions like the North Fork Parish Outreach that some can get limited assistance. If you can help, please reach out to them.

There is so much misinformation about benefits that some people use this topic to wrongly portray our undocumented community as taking advantage of the system. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Our immigrant community just wants to work hard, support their families and themselves. We need to make sure nobody is left without food, in the streets, finding temporary shelter in the woods, and feeling more isolated and vulnerable than ever before. 

We cannot let this health emergency take away our sense of humanity and empathy for others.

Ms. Spar is an educator and co-chair of the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force.