Many of the group’s members are queer. Murrey credits this fact for their ability to care for one another despite the geographic (and technological) barriers between them. “Queer folks are good at making community beyond the family unit, because we don’t always find community within the family unit,” Murrey told me.
In Toronto, Rachel Ricketts, a racial-justice educator and writer, has been raising money for an even wider-reaching community. As soon as businesses began closing, Ricketts understood that the most marginalized people were going to be hit hardest by the pandemic. Because she had a large platform, she set up a GoFundMe page right away. “I always strongly feel that the redistribution of wealth is always necessary, and now more than ever,” she told me. “So it came to me very quickly: Let’s just raise as much money as we possibly can and give it to as many people as we possibly can.” So far, she’s raised more than $56,000 for Black and Indigenous women and gender-nonconforming people in the U.S.
Ricketts said she was blown away by how much money she’d been able to raise. But she added that seeing requests for support arriving in her inbox each day has been difficult. Many of the Black and Indigenous women reaching out to her have lost work and need help paying rent or buying medication for family members. “I get really sad and really angry, because I don’t think people should have to make this request to a stranger,” Ricketts said, “and I don’t feel like I should be the one who has to allocate [the money].”
She’s also been moved by how many of the recipients use what they’ve been given to care for others, despite having so little themselves. She told me about one woman who donated $25 she hadn’t used back to the fund. An Indigenous recipient bought groceries for her family and then used the rest of the money to make masks for others on the reservation where she lives. “We call it ‘donations,’” Ricketts said, “but it’s just care. These people deserve to have care.”
Roy Baumeister believes that natural selection has instilled people with a desire for belonging and connection. Living together in social groups has helped our species survive and reproduce. “Providing care for others is high on [the list of reasons] why that worked,” he told me when I reached him by phone. I asked Baumeister about the many people who are donating money to strangers right now through online relief funds. Are those acts of belonging?
“Doing that kind of stuff does give a sense of meaning, and meaning is about connection to others,” he said. But, he cautioned, it’s possible that the good feeling someone has after donating is more about having done a good deed than it is about feeling connected to others.
In the time that I have been reporting this story, I’ve thought a lot about the relationship between care and belonging. Many people, if asked, would say that we care for our friends and family members because we love them. But the psychologist Alison Gopnik thinks the opposite is true too: We love people because we care for them. We are biologically wired in such a way that caretaking generates a sense of love and connection that isn’t limited to nuclear-family relationships.