We may be risking our lives every time we place an order for delivery. And yet we do it anyway. From home decor to self-indulgent beauty products, ordering frivolous items is bringing so many of us small comfort and joy from the outside world.
These precarious times require a more ethical approach to online ordering, though. If at one point we considered how much package waste is generated, pollution is created, and poor working conditions are enabled by our purchasing habits, the health crisis has added a whole new list of ethical questions to ask ourselves before adding items to our virtual shopping carts. I am fully on board with these necessary social changes. However, I must admit I recently placed three orders of what may seem like nonessential items.
What did I buy? I like to call them gifts of gratitude. Before you give me the side-eye, hear me out. These are the reasons why I sent care packages to special women in my life in the middle of a global crisis.
The first few weeks of lockdown seemed surmountable. I chatted with loved ones almost daily during this time. It’ll all be over soon, we thought. We were certain we were going to get through this as long as we embraced change and did our part to remain safe. Then weeks turned into months, and the ladies in my life picked up the phone far less frequently.
Learning of their job losses, difficulty working from home while parenting, mourning over their lost independence, and canceled celebrations made me feel inept. I couldn’t really be there for my loved ones, and that pained me. Then I thought back to times I experienced profound isolation in my life, like when I moved abroad, leaving behind everyone I knew and loved. It occurred to me that one of the things that kept me going during that time was receiving gifts and greeting cards in the mail from friends and family.
That’s when I hopped online and sent them little packages full of love, and that came with a welcome side effect of my own spirits being lifted.
A Gift for My Mother
My mother is presently sheltering in place with loved ones. But with three generations of family members cooped up in the same house, her growing frustration is palpable even over the phone. She suffers from a respiratory illness, and taking small walks to the park or the store were her only opportunities for escape before the lockdown changed that.
I’d love nothing more than to magically heal my mother and give her back her sense of independence. Unable to do so, I decided to send her memories of a time she holds dear to her heart — a trip to New Orleans. I remember she returned from that vacation with a newfound love and obsession for all things NOLA. She even started a new family tradition of ordering a king cake with a little plastic baby hidden inside to celebrate Mardi Gras every year. This is why my first online order was a set of Cafe du Monde coffee and beignets straight from New Orleans to New Jersey.
As the woman who showed me the value of nurturing friendships with women, compassion, and a little indulgence, I wanted to thank her for imparting those wonderful life lessons, which are helping me cope during lockdown now. With that small gesture, my hope is that my mom is transported to happier times with each sip of coffee and each tasty bite of powdery beignets.
There are cultures all over the world, particularly those who embrace the benefits of extended family, where cousins born around the same time are raised as siblings. My cousin and I were born three weeks apart and raised like sisters. Our mothers even dressed us like twins, and we celebrated our birthdays together.
While our lives branched in very different directions, we still lean on each other for support. Over the years, my cousin-sister, or prima hermana, has given me advice that I turn to over and over. And while it may seem like an inconsequential lesson right now, she taught me the value of dressing up as much for the outside world as for my own self. It’s because of her influence that I battle dreary lockdown vibes by wearing dresses around the house and reapplying vibrant red lipstick every few hours. I move differently when I dress up, and it’s nice that my husband notices these efforts.
My prima hermana and I recently missed out on celebrating a major birthday milestone. But I didn’t want her special day to be drowned out by the deafening silence of lockdown. That’s why I sent her a pair of fabulous earrings on her birthday. I wanted to encourage her to keep moving forward as she has encouraged me — doing it in style.
A few months ago, I went to a friend who is successful in her field. I complained about my work and financial situation and told her I needed a massive change in my life. This woman then made it her personal goal to help me land a new job. She sat with me for hours, helping me revise my résumé, practice for interviews, and rethink my job search strategy altogether. Then she did this one amazing thing. She took time off work to babysit my daughter so I could go on an interview. I landed that job, and it’s the same job that is sustaining my family right now.
As I paid our family’s bills last month, I wanted to demonstrate my gratitude to the woman who helped make that possible. That’s why I sent my friend a special gift in the mail. I ordered what many of us jokingly feel are essentials — coffee, tea, and a box of chocolate. This small act of gratitude uplifted both my friend and me.
I ordered each of these gifts questioning whether I was wrongfully placing workers in danger. Conversely, maybe supporting small businesses was a good thing. These are uncharted waters, and I don’t know what the right answers are. But what I do know is that the positive influence these women have had on my life and my ability to cope right now is invaluable. So while my ethics may be questionable, I promise my gratitude is golden.