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Creative ways to bring joy to your neighborhood while social distancing

  • Creative ways to bring joy to your neighborhood while social distancing

    There’s been no shortage of news about the widespread suffering caused by the coronavirus and the shutdown that’s defined it. Tensions are high, supplies are hard to come by, and money is tight. People are frustrated and frightened for their health, for their elderly or vulnerable loved ones, and for their checking accounts.

    If anyone’s looking for bad news, they won’t have to look far to find it. But among the avalanche of stories that are sad, scary, ugly, or maddening, a few steady glimmers of light have endured. Around America, and the world, neighbors and neighborhoods have resisted the urge to wallow and instead used the shutdown as an opportunity to engage, inspire, help, and connect with their fellow shut-ins.

    Some are solo acts of inspiration, others well-coordinated stunts clearly designed with social media in mind. Many are spontaneous gestures that went viral and sparked movements, but plenty of others are born out of old-fashioned neighborly goodwill. From young children to the very old, people around the world have used their imaginations, creativity, skills, talents, and sometimes even their pets to try to help their neighbors find the silver lining.

    Using information from a variety of sources including news articles and reports of viral social media activity, Stacker came up with a list of ideas that almost anyone can use to find some good in a bad situation within their own neighborhoods.

    Some ideas are more suited for the city, others the suburbs, but the vast majority can apply to most people in most situations. Some take place at a safe distance outside, others use technology to connect families and groups from afar. They involve everything from art and education to reading and wine, but every idea that made it onto the list has the potential to unite, to inspire, and to uplift now that neighbors have to reconsider what it means to be neighborly.

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  • Turn sidewalks into artwork

    One mother in Chicago dazzled her neighbors by using sidewalk chalk to turn the pavement outside her home into elaborate works of art. Regular residents don’t have to be Monet or Dalí, however, to brighten things up—a doodle, a drawing, or a happy message will be more than enough to lift local spirits.

  • Host a front yard concert

    In Florida, young members of the Tallahassee Youth Orchestra gathered their instruments and staged an impromptu concert outside the home of their elderly neighbors—at a safe distance, of course. Not everyone has their own cello, upright bass, or violin, but that’s okay. Anyone can spread joy through music, no matter how amateurish their attempts may be.

  • Keep elderly neighbors in mind

    Seniors are far more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general population, and the isolation of self-quarantining can have devastating effects on their mental and physical health even if they aren’t infected. One of the best things any friend, neighbor, or family member can do is check in on older folks regularly, leave a warm note in their mailboxes, send a text, or ask them for a list if you’re venturing out to the store.

  • Get together at a distance

    People shouldn’t hug their neighbors, shake their hands, or get in their personal space, but they don’t have to stop being neighborly. It’s perfectly okay to chat and trade stories at a safe distance, from across the street, or from porch to porch.

  • Host a neighborhood Zoom meetup

    One brand that has benefited from the lockdown is Zoom, which offers free video conferencing software that schools all over have adopted as their go-to choice for distance learning—but it’s not just useful for academia. Zoom created a special page just for people looking to get the most use out of the platform during the lockdown. Anyone can quickly learn how to schedule digital meetups with their neighbors so they can get together even when they’re apart.

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  • Give things that matter

    Supplies are tight for many critical products like gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. People with a surplus might be inclined to hoard, but for anyone with extra, the neighborly thing to do is check to see if anyone on the block is critically low—particularly the elderly or those with children—and share the wealth at a time when doing the right thing isn’t easy.

  • Get in the Christmas spirit

    It’s nearing the opposite side of the calendar year from Christmas, but that hasn’t stopped legions of quarantine shut-ins from breaking out the holiday lights and decorations. The winter holidays are a time of joy, and just because it’s out of season doesn’t mean you can’t brighten up your block—literally and figuratively—by getting in the Christmas spirit in April or May.

  • Schedule a happy hour

    With bars closed and liquor stores open, many people are sharing the impromptu happy hours they’ve been scheduling with their neighbors. They make their own drinks and socialize at a distance since cocktails don’t require close-quarters contact to work their magic.

  • Host a dance party

    Others have tweeted videos or scheduled lawn-to-lawn dance parties. All it takes is a text thread to schedule a time with neighbors, some music, and bodies in motion.

  • Send a message

    Across the country and the world, signs are springing up on houses, apartment buildings, and businesses everywhere. Some are written on sheets, others on posterboard, others on the structures themselves—but all are meant to uplift and inspire. Words like “hope” and “love” make simple statements, while phrases like “stay healthy” and “we will get by” offer inspirational sentiments.

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