The truckload of diapers expected at the Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank was late, so I challenged Ryan Palmer to a little friendly competition while we waited.

I was sure I could pack feminine hygiene products faster than he could. What I failed to account for was the 26-year-old volunteer’s well-honed system: his carefully arranged products, his lightning-quick hands, his enviable eye for quality control.

Thankfully, he also had a good-natured way of ribbing overconfident visitors who had pathetic packing skills.

“Just remember,” he consoled. “Next time you won’t be racing me.”

I headed to the diaper bank’s warehouse on Philadelphia’s I Street this week after Mighty Writers, the literacy nonprofit, put out a call for volunteers to help pack and distribute diapers and feminine products for numerous homeless shelters, food pantries, family service agencies, and faith-based organizations in the Philly area.

I wanted to help get the word out, especially when I realized how great the need is. Parents are routinely forced to choose between buying food for their families or buying diapers for their babies, and that only increased during COVID-19. Research also shows one in five women struggling to afford menstrual products each month.

But in full transparency, I also needed a fix of humanity, a bit of benevolence to take the edge off the bitter taste that our country’s behavior regularly leaves in my mouth.

And no, I’m not just talking about those among us who this most recent Election Day continued to gleefully vote for racism, misinformation, and just plain insanity.

Or that Washington Post headline about the Jan. 6 “rallygoers” winning public office, as if the more accurate descriptions of “insurrectionists” or “terrorists” would have been too cumbersome to type.

Then there were the residents of Virginia, voting for a governor who insisted that critical race theory was taught in all schools, despite school district after school district saying nope, not true.

And closer to home, in New Jersey, there was the Republican Nobody who beat out the Democratic career politician with seemingly no one noticing his social media takes against Muslims and others, until after the polls closed. (Somewhere, Journalism and Politics 101 professors are screaming into a black abyss.)

The morning I headed to the diaper bank, I was doing what we do these days — doomscrolling — when I came across a story about some Pennsylvania high school students at a hockey game who hurled vile chants at an opposing school’s female goalie. It was disgusting, but what got me were the comments asking where the adults were.

Open your eyes. They are all around us — attacking doctors and nurses and school board members over COVID-19 safety rules and store clerks and waitstaff over mask mandates and yelling, “Let’s Go, Brandon!” (or its unprintable equivalent), and setting the despicable examples that ensure this behavior will last long into the next generation.

But here I go, glomming onto the gloom, marinating in the misery, and that’s why I hopped into my car Thursday to meet the people behind the diaper bank, including volunteer Ann Cohen, a retired union representative from Roxborough.

Volunteering makes you feel good, she said when I shared my ulterior motive for stopping by.

“And don’t you think that part of it is if you’re doing something, you can’t obsess over just how bad it is?”

Yes, Ann! Exactly, Ann!

We are still in the thick of the muck that passes for life these days. As a recent Atlantic article by Caroline Mimbs Nyce noted, “Turns out, it’s hard to adjust to a new normal when that new normal keeps changing.”

I hear that. I’ve recently sped past burned out and crash-landed into bone-tired.

But while one expert in the article said this might mean many of us may be near the bottom of our well of compassion, another pointed to humanity’s capacity to bounce back.

“That’s what humans do,” he said.

OK, then, I hereby declare this the season to at least try to bounce back.

We’re closing in on Thanksgiving, so what better way to give thanks (for even the smallest win) than by giving — our time, our money, or even our column inches — to the tireless helpers among us?

That includes diaper bank founder Pat Kennedy, a former teacher at Newtown Friends School who started the effort in 2011 in her garage after learning that a lot of programs gave struggling mothers food but not diapers. Last year the bank distributed 2.3 million diapers and is on track to surpass that number this year.

To volunteer, fund-raise, donate, or even to hold a diaper drive, contact Deneen Newland, operations manager, at, or get on to connect with your local organization of choice.

Listen, if you are reading this and saying, “That sounds nice, but I can barely get myself out of bed in the morning, let alone tack on some do-gooder goals to an already dreary to-do list,” I’m here to tell you, from experience, drop the leftover Halloween candy and go do some good. It will only help. I promise.