You can make a difference in a pandemic — even if you’re not an emergency worker

During a pandemic, you can feel helpless.

How do you help humanity fight a virus when you’re not an emergency service worker?

As a writer working from home, I accidentally found a way to make a difference that could spur you to find your own chance to be helpful.

Last week, a Virgin Airlines pilot named Brett Douglass reached out to me. The smile in his LinkedIn profile picture, which revealed the pride he had for his job, got my attention.

As a B777 Airline pilot, Brett and his crew had been grounded because of the pandemic. While sitting at home, he started thinking about ways he could help. His thinking transitioned from “How do I make a living?” to “What happens if this situation is bigger than me?”

The revelation Brett had was to turn grounded Virgin Aircraft into overflows for hospitals. The planes had oxygen masks, toilets that were emptied from the outside, catering delivered onboard through established systems, communications systems connected to operation centers all around the world, tight security measures to control the flow of people, and an existing process to clean and disinfect the plane easily.

The biggest bonus of Brett’s idea was the cabin crews who were all first-aid trained. This idea would allow these staff to go back to work and help support the fight against the pandemic.

Before I responded to Brett’s message, I took a look at his LinkedIn profile. He’d spent days posting this idea that he believed could save lives. On every social media post about the pandemic, Brett would show up like a Golden retriever wagging his tail, and share his idea. Nobody took notice.

Brett’s skill was being a pilot, not navigating the treacherous seas of social media and the like-inducing culture it has produced.

It was clear from Brett’s obsession with sharing his idea that he wasn’t going to give up. He started sharing his idea with people he believed could amplify that message a few decibels louder. I was lucky enough to be included in that list. I read Brett’s message carefully. Then I read it a few more times.

His idea was good but it was hard to understand and read. It contained acronyms and pilot jargon that the average person may not understand. Without thinking, I put my writer hat on. I rewrote his message, edited it, honed his idea, simplified it a touch and then posted the idea on several social media platforms and tagged Brett.

I then collected the feedback on his idea and shared it with him.

After hitting send on my reply to Brett, I didn’t think much of it. It was a game-changing idea but I was just a writer who didn’t know anything about pandemics.

To my surprise, a few hours later, Brett sent me a link to a LinkedIn post.

The outcome surprised me. I didn’t ever think that writers like me could add a lot of value to a pandemic caused by a virus. This result is something that brings me immense fulfillment and who knows how many lives it might save.

Everybody has value in a pandemic, even writers

Reflecting on the outcome, I analyzed what writing skills were unconsciously utilized. Here is the list:

  • Idea curation
  • Idea editing
  • Honing an idea
  • Idea amplification through social media
  • Collecting feedback

These are all simple skills that I take for granted. You wouldn’t associate these skills with fighting a pandemic. Yet, the lesson from this situation has never been clearer:

Everybody has value in a pandemic.

Each of us has a set of unique skills that we can use to be helpful. The most powerful skill of all that I learned from Brett: Utilizing and unleashing your creativity on this pandemic.

Whatever your skills are, think about how you can be helpful right now. If every one of us stays home and washes our hands, that’s one thing. If we add our creativity to the list, we can beat this virus even sooner and go back outside to experience the real world again, and hug and handshake our way back to greatness.

It’s time to think about how you can make a difference in this pandemic. What one small thing can you do that might save lives or help beat this virus?

This article originally appearred on Medium.

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