Experiencing the Pandemic as a Humanist
by Angie Driskell
The height of the COVID-19 outbreak brought out the heroes in so many people. It was during this time that I saw how strangers banded together in order to help their countrymen who had lost their jobs and income. Not even the negative reactions to the government policies and international feedback flooding social media outlets brought me down. I was on a mission to help whoever I could, however, I could only do so within the strict quarantine guidelines. For the most part, I was fairly successful.
One of the most frustrating experiences I had during the MECQ (Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine) broke me down emotionally and mentally. I wanted to help a sizeable number of people who had been locked down in their boarding facilities by delivering prepacked meals. Given their ‘no-work, no-pay’ situation, it became evident that they would not be able to earn a living until the quarantine guidelines changed. I planned it out, had the volunteers ready and transportation booked. I then posted an announcement asking for donations to help cover some of the expenses for the food. I used my usual hashtags (#HAPIkami, #Human1st) and this is where everything seemed to come undone.
Someone told me that after sharing my post in an effort to help me, a potential donor decided to check what my organization, HAPI, was about. They immediately retracted their offer to help if the project had anything to do with my humanist organization. They would, however, commit to helping if it was my project alone. To be clear, this was truly a solo project and my own initiative. In all my humanitarian efforts, I always acknowledge HAPI because this is the organization that accepted me and motivates me to push forward in helping others. I decided to decline the offer and direct my energy towards other projects that would not require compromising my own beliefs and values.
After all the projects I had done in the past and all my efforts in helping those who needed it, I had never been told that a donor’s contribution would be conditional. A picture of volunteers carrying the PRIDE rainbow flag is what brought on the condition. For the first time in my entire journey as a humanist, I broke down. I bawled my eyes out in frustration. I went from feeling like I was making a difference in the world to feeling like I was not worthy of someone’s help. Deep down inside I knew that this was one person’s opinion and that this was not going to stop me from putting more unconditional love out into the world than what it was showing me at that moment, but it still stung badly.
Charitable works are supposed to be about those who are in need of our help, not our political or religious views. At a time of global chaos and uneasiness, the very least we can do is work together and put the most affected by the loss of work, loss of shelter, loss of healthcare, and loss of food above our own pettiness.
Perhaps I was naïve in believing this for so long, but the experience gave me a very strong dose of reality. As the world fights the pandemic by handwashing, wearing masks, and social distancing, I have found it just as necessary to fight the negativity around us by focusing more on the heart of humanity.