Practicing Spacious Solidarity

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Fred Rogers


Social distancing, the mandate to stay 6 feet away from our fellow humans, is semantically terribly cold, and emotionally contrary to what feels right. In times of uncertainty and crisis, so many of us instinctively want to run towards each other rather than away, but how do we do that while keeping each other safe? Here at the NEC we have decided that rather than social distancing, we will be practicing spacious solidarity, meaning we will continue to support each other and the environment, all from within our 6 foot personal bubble. As of now, no one knows how long this will last, so it’s vital that we maintain our social networks and that we step up to help those in need. 

For folks who are financially secure and who don’t have children, this outbreak can seem like a great opportunity to take solo hikes, go birding or do an impromptu one-person beach clean-up, which it is. It is also a time when your neighbors may need you more than ever. The closing of schools and shuttering of local businesses has left many in our community uncertain about the future and how they will get their needs met in the next weeks and months. Luckily, many other local groups are also practicing spacious solidarity, and networks of volunteers are out in full force delivering resources and emotional support to those in need.

One of our community allies, Cooperation Humboldt, is compiling databases of those in need and those who can help, and then connecting volunteers with tasks. If you need help with childcare, deliveries of food or medication or if you can volunteer, check out for more details. 

Redwood Coast Village, a grassroots senior-citizen organization, is also matching volunteers with people in need. They can be contacted on their Facebook page. Not everyone has access to the internet, so in the spirit of spacious solidarity, we may need to call our networks or leave notes for our neighbors to figure out who needs help. 

For those who find themselves out of work because of the virus, unemployment benefits information is available at

Thanks to Access Humboldt, displaced students without internet access may be eligible for free broadband for the next 60 days. Call 888-633-0030 to enroll.

Social isolation can exacerbate health issues, and the order to shelter in place may lead to serious consequences for those without a strong social network. Practicing spacious solidarity means that we take the time to reach out to our neighbors and make sure they are okay. Maybe this is a good time to start a pen-pal relationship with an elderly neighbor or to call a kid that you know and read them a story over the phone. You can start a Skype book or film club. Or plan Zoom call dance parties. Or spend hours watching the birds.

This crisis could turn into a great opportunity to connect with our community (from a safe distance) and to slow down and evaluate what is really important in our lives. And this forced break from “business as usual” may have a healing effect on our air and water quality since we will have the luxurious opportunity to go days without driving.

Be safe and stay healthy.