During This Crisis, Let’s Help, Not Just Hope

In a recent commentary in the New York Times, David Brooks wrote, “The virus is another reminder that hardship is woven into the warp and woof of existence.” 

For millions of young Americans, this is true. But for many GDS students, the hardship of the pandemic is not felt; this is no time of great suffering. 

Some students and staff in our GDS community are among those families in economic free fall. But for those of us who aren’t, we should be doing all we can to be of use.

Our high school’s annual tuition—which more than three quarters of students pay in full, without financial aid—is more than two thirds of the median U.S. household income. As such, the quarantine is a bending of our normal lives, not an upending of them. 

It is the cause of a cancelled spring break trip and a feeling of frustration, not of economic ruin and a feeling of hopelessness. Time is spent watching Netflix or embarking on new cooking projects, not setting up GoFundMe or Venmo tip jar campaigns to pay the month’s rent. 

Since President Trump declared a national emergency, 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment—the highest number since the Great Depression. 

In Phoenix, a high school principal found three students huddled under a blanket outside their school on a rainy day. They didn’t have Wifi at their homes, so they were trying to access the school’s wireless network to complete their required schoolwork. In D.C., city officials estimate that 25 percent of households don’t have access to the internet.

According to the Pew Research Center, less than half of Americans have enough emergency funds to cover three months of expenses. For Americans who make $50,000 to 70,000 a year, it takes an average of six years to create that financial cushion.

Patterns of poor health among less affluent Americans—diseases of labor like black lung and mesothelioma, diseases of poverty like obesity and diabetes and the opioid epidemic—mean those at the bottom of the income spectrum are significantly more likely to die from the coronavirus. 

Many GDS parents—those in the top fifth of the income distribution—are expected to live about 13 years longer than a person of the same age in the bottom fifth. 

On any given night before the coronavirus outbreak, half a million Americans had nowhere to sleep at night—and that number has surely skyrocketed. In Las Vegas, city officials painted rectangles on an asphalt parking lot to remind homeless residents to sleep six feet apart. 

Of course, living in economic security doesn’t mean that we can’t feel stressed, that we can’t grieve those we know who are sick or have died from the coronavirus and that it doesn’t suck to be a senior in 2020. It doesn’t mean that we are immune to the pains our country is enduring. But it does mean that many of us are better poised to help those who are struggling. 

“To whom much is given, much will be required,” goes the saying. At GDS, much is given to us. More resources, more school-sanctioned experiences and more opportunities than many other students will ever have. We are lucky. 

I am lucky, too. Both of my parents work for nonprofit organizations, and though we don’t live extravagantly, we are comfortable. 

Billionaire David Geffen, riding out the crisis on his 454-foot yacht, posted on Instagram that he is “hoping everybody is staying safe.” Let’s help, not just hope. Here are eight ways:

DC-area groups:

Capital Area Foodbank provides healthy food to DC-area residents in need. You can donate here:  https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/

N Street Village provides meals, showers and places to do laundry to women who are homeless. You can make monetary donations here: https://www.nstreetvillage.org/make-a-donation/ 

Or donate items from their wishlist of cleaning supplies here: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/MQHK7P49W78Z/ref=cm_go_nav_hz

So Others May Eat provides sanitizing stations, hand wipes and meals for homeless DC residents. You can donate here: https://www.some.org/give/donate-now-old-donate-page

Martha’s table, in partnership with local schools and the Capital Area Foodbank, provides students with groceries and has also been working to deliver the materials necessary for digital education to families. You can donate here: https://marthastable.org/covid19/

National groups:

The Boys and Girls Club of America provides groceries and virtual academic support to kids participating in the group’s more than 2,5000 clubs. You can donate here: https://www.bgca.org/

Feed the Children works with soup kitchens, churches, food pantries and shelters across the country to fight hunger. You can donate here: https://www.feedthechildren.org/

Direct Relief equips healthcare workers around the world with the masks, gowns and gloves they need to stay safe. You can donate here: https://www.directrelief.org/

Meals on Wheels delivers meals to vulnerable seniors. You can contact a local provider and donate here: https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/find-meals

Nick Penniman ’22