As I shared yesterday, I continue to see churches and leaders who I greatly respect and admire sending out messaging to their people about all that is being done to keep the risk down within their walls and making it safer for their congregations to gather on the weekends. It’s a fairly important message with the concentration of the virus here in our part of the country and the impending anticipated mass shutdowns or strong discouragements of public gatherings being suggested by local health officials. I am very aware of the concern. One of the latest confirmed cases occurred 1 block over in a building that I happen to go into on occasion. I applaud the efforts of these leaders to reassure their people that in the event you do brave the warnings and head to church on Sunday every measure possible has been taken to reduce risk.
It has struck me though, and I mentioned it in passing, that I have heard no voices encouraging or equipping our people how to neighbor beyond the fear. So here is my attempt at clarifying some thoughts on how that might be accomplished:
- Live locally – chances are that some or many of the businesses in your sphere of influence are small and owned locally. They will take a big hit as people disappear into their own homes. Big box stores and chain restaurants, while inconvenienced, can probably withstand an economic hit that comes with this wave of isolation, but your local connection will suffer substantially. When you are heading out for the necessities or luxuries, shop local, eat local. Not only will your resources be welcome, maybe even greater will be the value of your presence and support.
- Look beyond your own needs – as you assess your own needs and precautions, imagine what might helpful to those who surround you, especially the most vulnerable of our population. If you are a younger and healthier individual who is fully capable of heading to the store without literally taking your life in your hands, remember those you may know who should not be in those public spaces because of vulnerability. If you don’t know anyone like this, figure it out! What I mean is, find those in need. They exist, they are out there, and chances are they are lonely. Ask around, encourage others to join you, join efforts by social services who already know who these people are. Some of us, to be honest, got caught up in the “end of days” hoarding frenzy. Take a moment, take a breath, and consider sharing some of what you grabbed with people who had no opportunity to get anything for themselves and may be in need during this time.
- Encourage those who need it – People in general are quick to want to put a face to their fears. This brings out the worst in us as a culture. We have an opportunity to demonstrate the best. If you are aware of a segment who are being vilified or marginalized because of fear, step in to that and offer. Support your Asian, particularly Chinese, neighbors and businesses as they are feeling the “guilt by association” effects. I’m certainly not shocked as this phenomenon has been repeated throughout history, but it is unacceptable from those claiming Christ.
Undoubtedly this crisis will pass and life will return to normal for most. Let’s not hide, or lose for that matter, our heads and ignore the opportunity to really neighbor well. Peace and health to you in your efforts.