In times of global uncertainty, our natural instincts tend to lean toward self-preservation. Agreed—it is important to put your own oxygen mask on before others. But once that metaphorical mask is secured, we can rely on our other important values of ours, such as compassion and service. Many vegans went vegan in the first place to benefit something or someone other than themselves, so it is only fitting that we harness that altruistic spirit and give back during these darker times. Here are five simple, safe things you can do to help others in the time of COVID-19. 

1. Foster an animal
You’re likely going to be working at home for a while, making it the perfect time to volunteer as an animal foster parent. Without visiting hours, shelters and rescues are struggling to keep up with their growing homeless animal populations, and foster homes are needed more than ever. One of the benefits of fostering is that the organizations generally pay for the animal’s basic needs, so it’s not an extra financial burden for you. Who knows? You may find the perfect match and become a “failed foster,” also known as a proud new pet parent. 

2. Order-in from local restaurants
Just because you can’t dine in doesn’t mean you have to cook at home. We applaud the vegan restaurants who have adapted their service models and continue to remain open despite the times. Support your local vegan (or vegan-friendly) eatery by ordering takeout or delivery. The grocery store is out of tofu, beans, and potatoes, anyway. 

3. Grocery shop for someone who can’t
For those with limited mobility, seniors, or those with underlying health conditions who are considered “high risk”—or people who have tested positive and need to self-isolate—a simple grocery store trip is out of the question. Consider putting on gloves and volunteering to shop for them. They can electronically reimburse you, but add an extra plant-based product to their cart as a gift. 

4. Purchase restaurant gift cards
For the restaurants that have decided to temporarily shutter, purchasing a gift card is a way to show your support. This simple act not only supports them financially but sends a clear message that they can rely on customers once they are able to resume normal business. Sure, buy one for yourself, but also think of others. A vegan restaurant gift card is the perfect thing for someone who may be struggling financially, and it also helps spread the plant-based message. 

5. Connect, connect, connect
You don’t have to touch someone to let them know they matter. If we can glean any silver lining from this uncontrollable situation we’re all in, it’s that it can help strengthen our human bond (virtually). Now is the time to reach out to those you haven’t spoken to in a while—it is never too late to reconnect. If you’re walking your dog or waiting in line at the store, smile at strangers (from six feet away), acknowledge their presence, and let your vegan compassion radiate onto others. When we open up to each other, even in small ways, we can set the stage for greater empathy—the key to a vegan world. 

Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and runner living in Orange County, CA.

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