COVID-19 has thrown many of the lives of the American people into a tailspin. Since March, we have had to live in constant worry if we – or a loved one – would become sick. We’ve had to pull our kids out of school, cancel weddings and graduation parties, forgo summer vacations; and we’ve been living in constant flux wondering what the next few months will bring. Some people have lost their jobs, not knowing where they will get the money to pay next month’s rent or mortgage bill; while others have managed to stay afloat for the time being.

While the virus has certainly proved to be the main villain in this superhero movie that we call life, it has also shown how far Americans will go to help one another. The country’s philanthropic sector has sprung into action. Its response to the crisis has revealed both its readiness for goodwill and willingness to lend a helping hand.

Thomas Kane, a Chicago-based executive with more than two decades of experience in the financial services industry, looks back at what the coronavirus pandemic has taught Americans about giving back.

Even in the era of social distancing, we can still connect with our neighbors and offer support to those in need.

Amid the health crisis, supporting our community became essential, especially during these challenging times. Even when cities and towns asked their residents to stay home to slow the virus’ spread, people all over the country forged ahead in a remote capacity and shared ideas to safely connect with neighbors and offer assistance to those in need.

In Chicago, the generosity continues to spread.

Despite the restaurant industry becoming one of the economically hard-hit sectors, some Chicago restaurant owners aren’t letting the downturn stifle their giving spirit.

Chef and owner of Parachute Beverly Kim has been regularly donating meals to health care workers on the front lines at nearby Swedish Hospital. She has also been packing and donating produce boxes for senior citizens at the Hanul Family Alliance, a nonprofit that serves Korean immigrants in the city.

Even in small ways, Kim’s drop-offs show how everyone can get involved.

We donated resources to frontline workers

When hospitals were facing a shortage of crucial resources to properly combat COVID-19, people stepped in.

From delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to sewing masks, individuals and organizations did their best to help healthcare workers stay safe on the front lines.

We supported local businesses

With many small businesses closed, unfortunately, the economic effects were devastating. For those who looked to help, donations and volunteer work to keep businesses afloat and ensured a speedy recovery.

In times of need, people renewed memberships to their favorite museums. They purchased gift cards to their favorite restaurants and beauty salons. They left significant tips to the servers who brought their orders to them curbside.

We volunteered

For many of us, it was frustrating to hear that staying at home was the best way to help the spread of coronavirus because we wanted to get out into the community and help in any way possible. What did we do?

We donated blood during a nation-wide blood shortage. We grocery shopped for our elderly friends and neighbors. We signed up to become crisis counselors. We wrote letters to seniors in assisted living facilities to show them that they weren’t alone. We put our masks and gloves on and we boxed and distributed food to those in need at food drives.

We started our own non-profits

Feed-Chicago, a non-profit organization whose mission is to feed those who need it most during these uncertain times, rolled up their sleeves and packaged and delivered food safely to our heroes on the front line and heroes facing the greatest hardships. At the same time, the organization helped to restore restaurants and put service employees back to work.

Feed Chicago started as a small grassroots effort by Sasha Adler Design, but within days it grew rapidly, all because again, people wanted to do whatever they could to lend a helping hand.

What will we remember most about the coronavirus era?

Just like when the first plane hit the World Trade Center on that fateful day in 2001, people often asked in the aftermath, “Where were you on September 11?” A question we often ask ourselves as we recall a major incident that has occurred in our life.

Perhaps when we recall the COVID-19 pandemic the better question will be: “What did you learn from the coronavirus era?”

The hope is that we will remember the outpouring of generosity and goodwill we witnessed from our fellow Americans. While it is nearly impossible to forget about the negative aspects of a tragedy, we can only hope that the positives far outweigh the bad and that we continue to learn valuable lessons along the way.

Outside of giving back in the traditional sense, it’s also our responsibility to help vulnerable individuals from contracting the virus. As we continue to navigate the coronavirus, please practice social-distancing; wash your hands often and clean off surfaces; cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, and don’t touch your face. And, most importantly, wear a mask.

About Thomas Kane

Thomas Kane is Managing Director at Merrill Private Wealth Management in Chicago. Outside of the office, Thomas Kane serves as President of Friends of the IDF, an organization dedicated to the men and women serving in the Israel Defense Forces, wounded veterans, and the families of fallen soldiers, as well as other functions for civic and charitable organizations.