What an eventful last few weeks…I’m writing this article from my home surrounded by my kids who are indefinitely out of school. Like many of you, life around me quickly changed. It is daunting how quickly the coronavirus has taken hold of the world; you can almost feel the constant pulse of fear, anxiety and confusion pumping through our communities.
One would think there isn’t a better time to practice the principle of loving one’s neighbors as themselves – and yet the varied responses in opinions, thoughts and beliefs in how to respond, are puzzling.Despite warnings of the severity of the coronavirus from countries like Italy with reports of nearly 800 daily death tolls (Aljazeera news), there continues to be those who claim it is all just an over exaggeration – particularly those from faith communities.
The Washington Post recently covered a story about a little town in Kansas where pastors are telling their congregations to turn off their televisions saying that it is only bringing fear. A local man in his 70’s said, “we need to just trust the Lord…” after all, he said, “I don’t know anybody personally with the coronavirus…we shouldn’t be thrown into a state of panic because of what we hear, rather than what we see and witness” (Washington Post).
Many in this community are continuing to go about their daily business despite warnings to social distance.
Given that the virus seems to be particularly life threatening to older generations, this position is heartbreaking. However, it isn’t just the elderly who are at risk. The C.D.C. showed that “40 percent of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were age 20-54” (NY Times).
Also adding the twist that many of us could be carriers without presenting symptoms, is truly sobering. I do not know what the next few days, weeks or months are going to entail. But, I do know the world is suffering.
In Italy, their hospitals and morgues are overflowing. In Spain, a convention center in Madrid has been converted to a hospital. The Netherlands, Ireland and United Kingdom are seeing rapid increases in cases and deaths. And, now every state in the US has recorded cases of the coronavirus (Washington Post).
Regardless of whether or not you believe the coronavirus is a serious threat, the time for us to show divine love is now.
I put together a simple list of small, effective ways we can all love our neighbors well:
- Honor those at risk by staying home
This may seem like a broad idea, but it is a very practical way to keep those around you safe. You may be healthy. You may be young. You may not even have any symptoms – but you could be a carrier of this deadly disease that others are susceptible to. Love your neighbors by staying home and doing your best to only go out when absolutely necessary (and when you do, to honor social distancing and other practices as suggested by the C.V.C.).
- Pause church gatherings
This may sound a bit repetitive, but I have heard people say they are staying home, except for going to church and Bible studies. Across the globe there are reports of cluster outbreaks inside of church communities. Korea’s evangelical groups have been at the center of this discussion, with pastors telling their members to not fear the illness but to focus on spreading the message of Jesus through their outreaches and to continue their usual practices (NY Times). Again, this is not the moment to try to earn your faith stripes in your church community. Refraining from gathering together is not a showcase of a lack of faith – it is the practice of wisdom. Above all other laws or religious practices, please love your neighbor as yourself. We can do this by staying home.
- Help single parents
I cannot express the impact this event is having on single parents – especially those working in fields that are essential. If you know any single moms or dads in your community, reach out to them and offer to help in anyway they may need. Whether it be to allow their children to remain quarantined with your family so they can continue to go to work, or even the gesture of offering to cover their groceries or their rent goes a long way.
- Be aware of children in need
In Texas, a local children’s hospital reported an increase in child abuse cases believed in part due to the stress of the coronavirus on adults. Whether a parent or caretaker is a repetitive abuser or prone to abuse, there are many children currently staying in unsafe environments. With the stop of school and extra curricular activities outside the home, many children are living in lockdown with abusive people. Please be mindful of the families in your neighborhoods and communities. Check in on children that you are aware of – whether by phone call or social media. And, if anything is suspicious, please report it to the authorities.
- Avoid panic purchases
I went to the grocery store this week and was overwhelmed by presence of empty shelves. Necessary items were out of stock and I watched as shopper after shopper wandered in a daze trying to figure out what to buy. Please be mindful of others. Purchase what you need and don’t overbuy; even if your favorite item is running slim. Pay special attention to items offered through WIC or other state programs; please purchase other items. These are what many families depend on and are unable to purchase otherwise.
- Pay it forward
Many businesses are closing their doors, leaving families struggling to know how to provide for themselves. We forget that moments like this are an invitation to bless others. If you have the opportunity to work from home and are not in jeopardy of losing your job or forgoing a paycheck, consider sharing with a family who is not as fortunate. Many families are hitting a financial crisis and are unsure how they are going to survive. If you can, love your neighbor and pay it forward.
- Reach out
Check in on your people; call, text, message or whatever other means you have to stay connected. Isolation is tough, especially in the midst of so much confusion. Check in on parents who are grappling with how to stay sane with kids confined to the house. Check in on elderly neighbors who live alone. Check in on people who are out of work. Check in on social teens who can’t leave the house. Check in on those you love. Be a friend.
But, most importantly, take care of and love yourself first.
This is not the time to be a superhero. Nor is it the time to be too proud to ask for help if you need it. Be mindful of your mental health. If you are struggling with depression or your anxiety is overwhelming, please call your doctor. If you have a therapist, contact them to see if they are offering online sessions. Or, if you don’t currently have a therapist, now may be the time to find one.
Remember, we are not alone. And community can still thrive. Above all else, love. Love always wins.