Amanda Friedman for Reader’s Digest
It’s been a record-breaking 28 days since the government went into shutdown mode, and for more than 800,000 federal workers, that’s four weeks without pay—a long time for anyone, but especially those relying on paychecks to put food on the table and heat in their homes. Although backpay’s been promised, there’s no telling when the shutdown will end, leaving more and more Americans in a financial pinch. But a bright light nevertheless shines through all this darkness, and that’s the indomitable power of human kindness.
It started as a flicker, with people donating to GoFundMe sites seeking to support furloughed workers in paying their basic expenses and offering financial advice via Reddit’s “2018–19 U.S. Federal Government Shutdown Megathread,” whose most upvoted post is a reminder to treat federal employees (who are working without pay) with kindness. Here are some more random acts of kindness that can change someone’s life today.
The kindness continued with schoolchildren writing thank-you notes to TSA workers and airline employees treating TSA workers to chili dogs and cake and spread even further to food pantries across the nation that are working to ensure furloughed workers are fed. Now it’s a movement. Here are some of the undeniable highlights:
- Yassin Terou, whose Knoxville, Tennessee, falafel shop happens to have been named Reader’s Digest‘s Nicest Place in America, has been offering free meals to all federal workers affected by the shutdown. “For someone like me who is living the American dream in the American land,” Terou, a Syrian refugee, told Good Morning America, “I believe every hard worker should reach his goal and have a good level of life.” He obviously extends that philosophy to his customers as well.
- Chef Jose Andres has launched #ChefsForFeds, an initiative to feed furloughed federal workers in the Washington D.C. area.
- MPR News has published a guide to where to find free food and discounts in the Minneapolis area if you’ve been furloughed.
- Lefty O’Doul’s New Fisherman’s Wharf Baseball Ballpark & Café in San Francisco has invited all federal workers to free all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner buffets until the shutdown ends. Its owner, Nick Bovis, has said that while he can’t “stop the madness,” he can help feed friends and neighbors.
- The SPCA in Long Island, New York’s Suffolk County is giving out free pet food to feed the pets of furloughed federal workers.
- Verizon Wireless is waiving late fees and offering flexible payment options for federal employees affected by the shutdown. Sprint and T-Mobile have expressed a willingness to similarly help out. AT&T has pledged to waive late fees, provide extensions, and coordinate on revised payment schedules for furloughed employees.
- Some banks, including Wells Fargo, are forgiving late payments and service fees from furloughed customers. Chase and PNC have invited furloughed workers to reach out if they need similar assistance.
- Some credit unions (including Democracy Federal Credit Union) have launched emergency short-term loan programs at 0 percent interest, and Better Mortgage, a digital mortgage lender has launched an emergency refinancing program allowing furloughed workers to tap into their home equity to pay expenses.
- PayPal is offering $25 million in interest-free cash advances to furloughed workers.
- And because life isn’t just about necessities, furloughed employees have been invited to free Harlem Globetrotters tickets, free museum admissions, and free yoga classes, among little luxuries that might help to take the sting out of the current crisis.
Americans are known for stepping up for their communities. Check out these 15 most heartwarming acts of kindness from 2018.