This article appeared in the March 30, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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The power of ‘How can I help you?’

Robert F. Bukaty/AP
Eric Baldwin examines the stitching on a cotton mask, one of hundreds he and the employees at his sail-maintenance business are making for caregivers during the coronavirus outbreak, at his shop in Freeport, Maine, March 23, 2020.

Today we look at an infusion of goodwill for local journalism, accelerating competition between the U.S. and China, the Pentagon's view of its role in fighting the coronavirus, performers getting creative about keeping their art alive, and a city's experiment with making some bus routes free. But we'll start with some examples of what a call for help can yield.

“How can I help?” 

That powerful question comes with a touch of uncertainty amid coronavirus constraints. Yet as needs are communicated from governments and individuals alike, people are underscoring that a moment many associate with feeling overwhelmed is producing overwhelming evidence of caring.

In Britain, as the Monitor reported, a government initiative to help lonely shut-ins (after training) resulted in what’s being called “the largest volunteer recruitment drive since World War II.” Closer to home for me, a neighbor’s call for homemade masks, sent around with an approved pattern, has resulted in a tidy stack of donations she’ll deliver Tuesday to a Boston hospital.

Or there’s Boloco, a small New England restaurant chain known for its ethical practices. A last-stand announcement that several locales would likely close yielded instead what CEO John Pepper called a “miraculous day” of orders that  “will put over 2,000 meals in the hands of frontline workers” and keep the doors open. Similarly, Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, is bringing back 100 full time workers after online orders soared on news of imminent closing. And in the Bhardwaj family kitchen in Toowoomba, Australia, two girls are finding the nourishment that comes from providing an astonishing number of meals for emergency health responders.

It’s a spirit flagged by Tobias Jones, a writer in Parma, Italy. It is a difficult time, he wrote in The Guardian. But, “there’s something profound about what’s happening. ... We’re hunkering down together to discern what really matters in life.”

This article appeared in the March 30, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 03/30 edition
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