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Stay willing to lend a hand safely

April 17, 2020
Put faces on more neighbors, providers and colleagues

Just a few days before we began sheltering-in-place in Chicago and Illinois, I learned that Cook County desperately needed election judges for the March 17 primary. I signed up, but far too late for the required training—or so I thought. I figured I'd be ready to help during the Nov. 3 general election, but the day before the primary, I was called in, and told I could "learn on the job." Uh oh.

I hadn't been an election judge before, but I did cover many elections long ago, so I knew they can be very frantic events. Still, I decided to give it a shot because I make a good minion, who can readily take orders. I helped set up electronic and manual voting booths and other equipment the evening before at my two local precincts at Elmwood Park Elementary School, and then worked 16 hours on primary day itself.

Despite my doubts and the long shift, I enjoyed myself immensely thanks to the change of scene, two veteran judges who pointed me in the right direction, and free donuts, pizza and sandwiches. Plus, because I live in the precinct where I was a judge, I also got to meet dozens of my neighbors that hadn't been introduced to yet.

Finally, because many residents were already working at home due to COVID-19, there was less of the weekday's early and late voting rushes, and a steadier flow of voters that was more like a weekend—also confirmed by the high ratio of blue jeans. I think it was this consistent influx and little or no waiting that allowed our precinct to double its usual primary turnout, according my fellow judges, even though Cook County was far below its usual total. Just a little silver lining.

My point—and thanks for sticking around—is there's always an undiscovered community and potential camaraderie right under our noses, on our street or within a few blocks. Even well-connected residents, who know many neighbors or live in small towns where "everyone knows everyone," are often acquainted with only a fraction of who's actually there.

The same goes for the "residents" of all the organizations, companies and professional communities I've covered in the process and other industries in recent years. For instance, when it turns out a long-time coworker, contractor, client or group has some amazing skill or capability, the well-known phrase is, "I didn't know you/they/we could do that!"

It was good to be reminded of the nearness of priceless people by the close to 200 voters who showed up for the primary, and timely too because everybody is now social distancing and self-quarantining due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The pandemic is infecting and killing indiscriminately worldwide, stretching healthcare providers past their breaking points, and threatening everyone else.

However, beyond the basics of good hygiene, sufficient isolation, and hopefully staying healthy and avoiding cabin fever, there are many ways to help your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues in essential industries weather this unprecedented crisis—even within the constraints required to blunt COVID-19's impact. For example, giving blood is increasingly crucial because donations are way down just when they're going to be almost as needed as n-95 facemasks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

A few clicks, posts and calls are all it takes to find, reach out and learn what your residential or professional community needs, and how you can help while still staying safe. Checking in on elderly neighbors by phone, arranging for childcare for parents, and ordering meals for overworked providers are just a few of the options.

I know process engineers, technicians, operators and pretty much all technical professionals are universally adept at identifying and solving problems, so I'm sure we'll find some solutions. I've heard neighbors in Italy are singing from their balconies; residents somewhere in the U.S. are putting stuffed bears in their windows to make "bear hunt" walks entertaining for kids; and apartment dwellers in New York City are collectively shouting thanks to nurses and doctors at specified times. So what can you come up with?

About the author: Jim Montague
About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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