In uncertain and difficult times, a person’s true character is revealed. Who will we be, as a community and individually, when we emerge from this war with the coronavirus?

Let’s choose to emerge as better, more thoughtful people, by focusing not on ourselves during this time but on others. Let’s reach out to those in need. Let’s strengthen the bonds that hold our community together and make it a nicer place for all of us to live.

Fear and panic overtook many Americans when they started listening to the news and seeing the headlines about the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a global pandemic.

The number of cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. is on the rise.

New York City is on lockdown.

President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency.

The White House advises avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people.

In a survivalist mindset, people began flocking to the grocery stores, stocking up on and even hoarding items they thought they would need in the time of crisis, from toilet paper and Lysol to bread and meat. Once the shelves were emptied and the “dust had settled,” Americans were facing a new reality. They wondered, “What’s next?” No one really knows the answer to that question because no one in their lifetime has experienced a global pandemic.

Rather than letting the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic overtake our hearts and minds, fueling more panic and self-centered actions, let’s instead turn our thoughts toward others. We can become a stronger, better, more close-knit community while still observing proper social distance during this health crisis. We can do this by finding ways to give back.

Here are some of the ways we can give back and help our neighbors, friends and the community as a whole:

• Check on an elderly neighbor or family member. Offer to go grocery shopping or cook dinner for them and make sure they have everything they need. Offer to mow their lawn or do their yard work.

• Pick a part of town to clean up and get to work.

• Donate blood. The American Red Cross is experiencing a severe shortage of blood donations during this global pandemic. The next blood drive is scheduled for April 4 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Winns Creek Baptist Church at 3088 Howard P. Anderson Road in Halifax.

• Earth Day is April 22. Help the environment by recycling and reducing your carbon footprint. Plant a tree, flowers or other plants.

• Become a pen pal or phone buddy for a resident of a local assisted living or nursing home. Their interactions with the outside world are limited now, and they’re feeling more isolated.

• Make a “care package” with essential items for a family in need.

• Buy a gift card to a local business or restaurant and give it to a friend. Small businesses need support from the community to stay afloat during times of economic hardship.

• Offer to pick up medications at the pharmacy for a neighbor or friend who is sick.

• Start a neighborhood watch group. You can have virtual meetings until you’re able to meet face-to-face.

This global pandemic has changed our lives as we know it, but let’s use it as an opportunity to become better and more selfless, community-minded people. We will make it through this together, and in the process, we can help make the world a better place.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.