I want to use this column as a letter to my fellow young people. Call us what you want, Millennials, Gen Z, I don’t care.
We find ourselves in the midst of a once-in-a-generation crisis.
The coronavirus threatens the lives of millions of our parents and grandparents and is already wreaking havoc on the wellbeing of our families and our economy. The news is scary. But I also know the Valley. And I know that our community is ready to step up and do our part to help our neighbors.
Just ask any of our seniors who lived and fought in World War II — it was a full community effort to keep our families safe. The “Greatest Generation” earned their title through that effort.
Elementary school kids collected scrap metal. Women who hadn’t worked in factories before put on their bandanas and became real life Rosie the Riveters. People parked their cars and walked or took the bus to save gasoline for our military.
During the war, Americans made small personal sacrifices and went out of their way to get through a shared struggle. Now, it’s our generation’s turn to do the same thing.
The most basic thing we can do is take the advice of public health officials. Practice social distancing. Order takeout – don’t dine in. Save your bar money for another time. Even better, donate it to a local charity. Don’t gather in large groups. Most importantly, remember that just because you don’t feel personally at risk, thousands of your neighbors and loved ones are.
But I’m really asking you to do more than just be responsible. We can do better than that. Healthy young people should also take proactive steps – like our grandparents did during the war – that will help us get through this together. Offer to babysit for your neighbor who has to work and can’t send their kids to childcare. Go to the grocery store for elderly folks who are rightly afraid to venture out. And call your parents or grandparents. They’re probably feeling very lonely and anxious right now.
And there’s no need to hoard supplies. If you buy enough toilet paper to last 10 years, your neighbors can’t get any. And unless you are sick, there’s no need to wear a mask. Save those for our doctors and nurses who desperately need them.
We’ve already seen our community take some amazing steps to help each other. An assisted living facility in Modesto asked for the community’s help in getting sanitizing products. People stepped in and made donations within the first 24 hours. That effort will help protect older residents and people with preexisting conditions – and probably saved some lives.
Let’s build on these efforts – and do even more. We have the time to organize, to help, let’s step up. I’m going to be working right alongside you. That’s why I encourage people to check out Loveourneighbors.org. If you need help, you can find it there. If you’d like to help, you can be connected with some very grateful neighbors.
We still don’t know what the long-term effects of this virus will be, but if we see this as an opportunity to help our neighbors, we will come out of this even stronger. A shared struggle can be the best way to bring people together. It did during World War II. And it just may right now.
Pam and I send our prayers to you and your families. Please stay safe and healthy.
— Harder is a Democrat and the U.S. Representative for California's 10th congressional district, covering Stanislaus County and parts of San Joaquin County.