Social justice in the COVID-19 crisis

The Covid-19 crisis is shining a bright light on the digital and social divides in our culture, just at a time when we need to unify the most.

A significant portion of our population (Just B Yoga included) is privileged to remain connected via social media, teleconferencing and web cast meetings. We’ve transferred the way we operate (and practice our meditation and yoga) to the digital world. While it might be different and unfamiliar and uncertain, our lives are mostly whole and intact.

But everyone doesn’t have the tools or resources to stay connected in this digital way due to many factors. And disparity and social injustice rank high.

Some of the most vulnerable to this virus are unable to get the news, protect themselves and others, provide for their shelter and food. Some cannot accept direct help, their trauma wounds distrust or misinterpret intentions and actions.

The divide of haves and have nots is glaring. The margins between the marginalized clearly delineated and hard to cross. Our poor, housing insecure, mentally ill, trauma survivors and underinsured are on the front lines of falling victim to this public health threat and least able to help themselves. But if we were revulsed at helping the most destitute among us before a public health threat, it might be a leap to expect folks to get into the trenches now.

Yoga is a practice of connection. Our yoga is born in our actions in the real world, how we walk in the world. It takes root in how we treat others and the world around us. What we practice on the mat is a dry run for when life twists us, upends us and knocks us down.

This virus is knocking us down. Are we reaching out to help pick up our sisters and brothers? I don’t have answers, but I do have ideas and I’m open to the ideas of others to help triage our tattered social safety net.

Yoga is the practice of living as a connected being. We are that net.

I spoke with a social worker in a local social service agency about what she’s seeing as she tries to continue to serve her clients. Liz (no last name because she doesn’t have authority to represent her agency), has been driving around the Lansing area with food and cleaning supplies looking for those without phones or steady addresses. She was worried about her mother’s vulnerability (her mom is fine). But caring about her own welfare and the welfare of her family and her clients was a heavy burden when we spoke last week.

Listen to our interview with Liz on the Just Being Podcast:

Staying safe/Staying in communication

If I feel isolated, how must our most vulnerable feel? Those without internet or cell phones or television access? How do they learn the bus schedules have changed? How do they call telehealth when they don’t have a phone and phone booths are a thing of the past?

Who is checking in on their needs and if they are keeping safe and sanitized?

Just knocking on doors and knowing who lives next door is sadly a lost and foreign concept in a lot of our urban and suburban communities. But this is an opportunity for us to change the patterns and see each other as beings.

  • Maybe just reach out and make sure you know the people in all four directions of your house and they know you, your phone number and anything vital (health conditions, how to contact family)
  • What means of communication do they have? And maybe set up a regular time to check in and chew the fat “over the fence” so to speak.”
  • Creative problem solving on internet access and equipment. Maybe share your wifi code if you have internet service. See if there are services to get a cheap or used laptop or tablet to help them have access.

I have a few pan handling friends around town. One, Wanda, actually knocked on the door yesterday. She said it was her birthday and needed some help. I have discouraged her in the past from knocking on my door but yesterday I asked her how she was getting by and gave her a few dollars and some sanitizer. I told her to drop by more often.

Belinda (left) with Brenda (right), May 2019. Brenda's wisdom? "All God's children got the hook up."

I haven’t seen Brenda in a bit. She’s a woman known around the REO Town area, often with a Santa hat. If anyone has seen Brenda, let me know. If you know how we can be of help to her, also let me know.

How are the housing insecure keeping their devices charged? Most public places are closed. Where can they use a restroom, wash up, relieve themselves? Where can they get the internet at all? (Might it be time to make internet a public utility?)

Learning Curves

Everyone can’t run to Zoom or even Facebook. I have a friend who said she’s breaking down and asking her sons to create a Facebook account for her. It’s all new for her. She never felt the need to have an account before.

Zoom? I spent an hour on the phone with a mentor yesterday walking her through creating her first webcast meeting, how to launch it and invite people.

This requires patience and understanding and a desire to help. We have to meet folks where they are to help them find this vibrant social world on the Internet.

Different strokes for different folks

Not everyone wants to or is able to talk face-to-face. Many suffer from anxiety, personality or bipolar disorders.

But a note or a card might be OK. An act of kindness like a trip to the grocery store might work for someone else. Texting or phone calling might be welcome. Playing music on the radio so folks on both front porches can hear could be just enough.

Accepting where we all are in our comfort zones of communicating can help us all connect and feel less isolated and alone.

It felt good to make that connection.

Liz checked back in today and said she’s been having video family meetings which are helping her spirit. She even reached out and met a new neighbor.

“I saw him on his porch so I stood on the sidewalk and introduced myself,” she texted me. “He hadn’t been able to find eggs at the store when he went out so I was able to get some when I did my grocery run. … I learned the three houses across from me have been owned by their families since the 60s. Nice to have that stability. … It felt good to make that connection.”

Just B Yoga has spent the last decade making connections in the school districts, health departments, mental health agencies, correctional facilities and other social service organizations. We will be checking in with them over the coming days and weeks to see what they need and how we can all serve one another.

Peace and namaste,


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