What Next? Community, Connection, and Compassion.

Handmade cards bring comfort to those struggling with loneliness during the lockdown.

Yesterday, Andrea Bocelli, undoubtedly one of the most iconic voices in the world, sang songs of healing inside an empty Duomo in Milan. At one point during the performance, pictures of major cities around the world from London to Paris to New York were shown with empty streets. I am not sure which was more striking, his voice or those images.

Never in modern history have those streets been barren, and certainly not at the same time. But what you cannot see in those images are the millions upon millions of people suffering behind their closed doors.

Demand for services from food banks to rental assistance to domestic violence support are soaring. In the past three weeks, nearly 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment, with more undoubtedly to come in the days ahead. In San Antonio, there were 10,000 cars lined up at the local food bank. The suffering of those in hospitals and the courageous efforts of our healthcare workers remind us further of the fragility of the human condition and of life itself.

All of it together, is enough to overwhelm the mind and heart and lead one to ask how in the world we got to this place. And that seems less important at this point than the question of “What next?”

It is evident that no one quite knows the right answer to that. We find ourselves on the edge of uncertainty in an unprecedented time with no historical playbook to guide us in a global pandemic in this modern world. And so perhaps the greatest way to find hope is in service to one another, to return to the basics of community, connection, and compassion. There is no doubt that the suffering is great, but with that comes great opportunity to help those around us.

Through our work, we support nonprofits by connecting them to the powerful demographic of youth and families, who have a unique opportunity to help lead the charge as we think about the next chapter. Many nonprofits are teetering on the edge of their own survival, overwhelmed by demand for services, and yet low on volunteers and donations. Their immediate need for support is great, but this is a situation that will also take years to rebuild.

Financial support is crucial at this time, but not everyone is capable of giving monetarily in this moment. We encourage those that have the capacity to give, to give more than ever before. It is desperately needed. But there’s also an opportunity to use this time—especially with all of the additional hours in the day kids have at home now with no extracurricular activities—to teach young people that regardless of whether we can afford to make donations, there are things each of us can do beyond writing a check. We can teach them about our nonprofit communities, the crucial work that they do, and the role their generation can—and must— play in supporting that for decades to come.

We recently launched a week-by-week series of service projects, which can be done almost exclusively at home, that offer children ways they can immediately help in this crazy time. Our larger hope is to start a dialogue that awakens young minds to the needs and the opportunities to serve society and one another. Ample science supports the notion that when these lessons are taught early in the development process, they take hold in a way that transforms the mind. Children orient themselves to their emerging world in a new way.

Read Next: Projects to do each day during the lockdown

While none of us may know what the next chapter will bring, it most certainly will require an ongoing global commitment to care for the vulnerable among us, much as the healthcare workers are sacrificially caring for those affected by COVID-19 right now. While that may feel daunting, it is the great opportunity of this generation witnessing history, but hopefully also writing it for the better in the end.