Laura Mitchell: Let the volunteers back in.
Staffing shortages are threatening vital institutions. Millions of us are vaxxed, boosted and desperate to help.
By: Laura Mitchell
Schools in Alberta opened this week. It was glorious. We trudged through the January snow in the dark as the violet and pink bursts from the incoming Chinook sunrise spread across the sky. I could have kissed that snow in gratitude over it. The doors flew open and the teachers were there. God bless you, teachers.
There is still fear. I feel it, I’m sure others do too. But this time not about the dangers of COVID-19. Most appear to have accepted that we are all, and I mean all, going to get exposed to COVID eventually, and probably soon. The danger now shifts from severe outcomes to what on earth do we do if an entire society gets a cold or flu or COVID or a combination of all three at once? Can the schools stay open? Will the hospitals cope? Will the doctors’ offices have staff?
I have a proposal.
Let us back in.
Something that has bothered me since the beginning of this mess is the utter lack of imagination from the bureaucrats in charge of our major institutions about how to engage the rest of us in getting through this. Most of us have been asked nothing, and have had very little opportunity to contribute, if any. If there is a danger that we will shut down schools again because there aren’t enough orderlies in the hospitals or bodies in the classroom, it’s time to rally the troops.
And by that I mean moms, and grandmas, and bored, retired men.
I’m a double-Pfizered stay-at-home mom with a reliable vehicle and time on my hands. Give me something to do, for God’s sake.
I’m not suggesting I scrub in for a gallbladder removal or march in the doors and substitute in physics. But I refuse to entertain suggestions there isn’t administrative or organizational busy work that can be accomplished by an army of volunteers willing to take the weight off those on the front lines. Papers can be filed, math sheets photocopied, PPE arranged on carts to be distributed, potatoes peeled and jell-o cups arranged on trays. A rolling schedule of boosted grandmas can do the COVID checklists and hand out masks at the main doors of a hospital for people coming in for routine appointments with specialists. We can organize the gym equipment and read with the kid having a bad day and shelve the books back in the library.
And if we get COVID, we get it knowing there was that risk, and that’s why we got vaccinated. If you were somehow under the impression your shots were a force field and this prospect scares you too much, stay home. Let those of us willing to take a hit to keep our crucial institutions going roll up our pants and wade in.
What is happening now isn’t brave. It feels like defeat. And it’s unCanadian. I lived through the floods in the Calgary area and, despite being six months pregnant at the time, I joined in the herculean effort that went into putting this beautiful city back together. I made and brought food to the Siksika arena doubling as an evacuation centre, I coordinated our church’s volunteer response and my husband mucked out basements in Calgary and High River.
One memorable morning my church was tasked with making 400 bagged lunches for Samaritan’s Purse volunteers going into High River. We had about 12 hours’ notice. Sandwiches were made in the kitchen and water bottles purchased, but what about treats? Everyone likes treats. So an octogenarian desperate to feel useful was tasked with phoning around to some of her friends to get baking.
She phoned everyone. And everyone was also desperate to feel useful.
When I walked into the church the next morning, I was greeted with hundreds of cookies. And car after car pulled up with elderly husbands dropping off their wife’s wares, telling tales of women who sat up with their ovens into the wee hours to get the last batch baked.
We wound up with over 2,000 cookies.
We need to start harnessing that energy again. It’s no longer enough to act like it’s heroic to sit at home watching Netflix. Getting vaccinated should not be the limit of what I can do to help my community and my country. Many of our critical institutions need help, and we are here to give it to you.
My boots are already on. You just need to tell me where and when. And I’ll be there.
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