To be honest, I was dismissive of the initial reaction to the coronavirus in the US. I thought cancelling the NCAA tournament and other gatherings was an overreaction. Hearing about the relatively mild symptoms of the virus made me think it was not that big of a deal. I figured that if I got sick I could recover quickly so why all the panic? But after spending more time reading about how the virus impacts people who are much more vulnerable than me and guidance from people I respect like Andy Crouch (Love in the Time of Coronavirus) and Esau McCaulley (The Christian Response to the Coronavirus: Stay Home) I had to change my outlook. If you are also a low-risk person wondering what your role should be, here are some things to consider:
It is not about you
Take health precautions seriously because it is not just about your health. It is about keeping vulnerable people safe who could be seriously harmed if we passed the virus to them. Be thinking about the elderly in your community, or those who are going through cancer treatment, or those who are pregnant and have longed for a child for years, or people who appear healthy to you but may have health concerns you know nothing about. Remember that all of these people could experience life-threatening illness through the carelessness of the healthy. Now is the time to put their concerns ahead of your own and make decisions with them in mind.
Practice everything we are being told to do
There are a lot of great memes about social distancing, but it is more than an introvert’s time to shine. The more we are in public and in groups that are not necessary, the higher the risk of spreading the virus. This could mean cancelling plans or events that you have worked hard to prepare. I am a campus minister and right now my students are all home with extra time on their hands. I have to fight the urge to gather them because it might be fruitful for us but could be detrimental to someone else. The wise thing to do is model staying home even when we could go out. When you are going out for necessities, be vigilant about hand washing and disinfecting throughout your time in public and as soon as you get home. These are not habits of germophobes, these are life-saving measures.
Consider how your health can be a blessing to others
Being a low-risk population is not something to take for granted, but a gift that can be offered back for the common good. Can you run errands for someone who is home bound? Reach out to elderly/high-risk relatives, neighbors and people in your community. They may desperately need someone to get them groceries, get their mail or buy stamps, or pick up their prescriptions. Then make sure to disinfect your hands before dropping those things off! Also consider who in your community might need childcare when school is cancelled but the parent(s) cannot stay home, especially if they are in the medical field. If you are a student or have a flexible schedule, you may be able to help a parent remain employed and keep their family stable.
Reach out to each other
Social distancing can be relaxing and fun for some, for others it will be deeply stressful and lonely. Be intentional with your community and proactive to communicate with others, especially with anyone living alone. Prioritize messaging and video chatting with anyone you know may be struggling. Isolation can inflame anxiety and depression; we need caring human contact to stay healthy. Physical health is not the only form of wellbeing at stake, stay connected and be an initiator for your loved ones.
Embrace Godly concern
It is tempting to go to extremes of either dismissiveness or panic. Trust God in what we cannot control (which is most of it) and honor God in what we can do. Our call is to love and serve our neighbors. Not in a spirit of fear or anxiety, but of selflessness and compassion. Be rooted in scripture and let God’s Word be your guide:
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. – Romans 12:9-13
The Church has a unique opportunity to demonstrate peace and sacrificial love during this season. Do not miss this opportunity to serve with humility, put the interests of others ahead of our own, care for each other in creative ways, and glorify God in the ways we respond. Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.