10 Concrete Ways To Help Boston

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Because my residence, Gerard Hall, was attached to the abandoned (read: terrifying and haunted) Old Halifax Infirmary, my friends and I were sent to retrieve the stacks and stacks of hospital mattresses that were left there. I would later revisit the Old Infirmary again with my friend Ali, who would break in so that she could skateboard up and down its smooth, ghostly halls.

Later, we were taken by bus out to the Exhibition Ground, where we handed out toiletries, blankets and toys to people who spoke barely any English. Many of them had no idea where they were, and had never, in fact, heard of Halifax. Everyone was very subdued, very still –- even the babies were quiet. No one was upset at having to sleep on the concrete floor of a building that normally housed horses; mostly everyone was just happy to be alive.

There was this sort of sense that we were all in this together, and that if we could just keep being nice to each other, we could stop bad things like this from happening ever again.

There was also this sense that if we could all just keep moving, if we could keep doing helpful, constructive things, we wouldn’t have to think about what all this violence and hatred meant.

In the wake of the Boston bombing, I’ve been trying to figure out ways to help. I want to be like those people I saw in the news footage who ran towards the destruction, not away from it. I want to do something, anything to stop me from feeling like a useless, voyeuristic bystander. So, with the input of a few friends, I’ve put together a list of things that we can all do, no matter where we are:

10 Things You Can Do to Help Boston

1. When you are sharing information about what’s happening in Boston, please take a minute to make sure that whatever you’re posting or re-tweeting is accurate and correct. I’ve already seen a few fake twitter accounts promising to donate money to disaster relief for every retweet. I’ve also seen people posting sensationalized stuff that just isn’t true. Before you hit “retweet,” make sure that you are being a reliable conduit of facts for your friends and family.

2. Let the emergency response workers and law enforcement do their thing. Give them the chance to tell you what they need. They will let you know how you can best offer help. If you were at the finish line at the marathon, the FBI requests that you share photos or videos with investigators. Call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), prompt #3.

3. Use social media to let others know you are okay or to offer help. Google has created a Person Finder site for the Boston Marathon to help people locate their loved ones. There is also a Google Doc to help stranded visitors find a place to stay or for Boston residents to offer a couch or bed in their own home.

4. Give blood. Or if you can, donate money to theAmerican Red Cross, which is the organization that handles most blood donations in the United States. If the blood bank is all booked up (the Red Cross noted yesterday they were not immediately in need of blood donors), make an appointment to make a donation in a few weeks’ time, when the huge supply they have from people initially responding to the disaster has run out.

5. Look for small but vital local organizations that serve members of the population who might not receive help from larger aid organizations. Look for shelters that need blankets and clothing, or food banks that need non-perishable items. Stuff like that.

6. Refrain from speculating on the race, ethnicity or religion of the perpetrator. Don’t make this political. Keep any remarks about Obama’s response, your thoughts on the current immigration policy, and the current state of homeland defense to yourself. There will be plenty of time to dissect these things in the coming days; for now, remember that everyone around you, Obama included, is frightened and upset.

7. Hug the shit out of your friends and family. Remind everyone how much you love them until they’re tired of hearing it. Then remind them again.

8. Take care of yourself. If reading about the bombing or looking at pictures starts to become too much, give yourself permission to take a break and get off social media for a while. The world’s not going to end if you’re not on Twitter.

9. Give everyone else a break. They’re having a hard time too. Remember that everyone mourns or deals with stress in different ways.

10. Eat some chocolate. Read this wonderful article about the meaning of the Marathon. Then read this beautiful post by Patton Oswalt. Remind yourself of how many legitimately good, caring people are out there. Remember the adversity that the human spirit is capable of overcoming, and remind yourself that, even after something like this, we will rebuild. We have to.

I love you guys.



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