The recent classification of coronavirus as a pandemic and declaration of a state of emergency in the USA has likely already impacted your life. Parents are scrambling to find childcare following the closure of schools and daycares. Grocery store shelves are empty and stores are limiting their hours to allow more time to restock. Employers are quickly enacting new telecommuting policies. The economy may enter a recession, notably with the travel and hospitality industries facing the hardest hit. Humans, who are deeply social beings, are bracing for weeks-to-months of social distancing.
During such a scary outbreak, it’s easy to embrace a philosophy of “every man for himself.” However, as Christians, we are called love our neighbor and support those who may be the most vulnerable during this challenging season. In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, Jesus reminds us that “blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Here are some impactful ways that you can serve as beacon of mercy to your community during this trying time:
Donate to your local food bank
So many Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and with the sudden closure of institutions across our country, many people may suddenly find themselves even unable to feed themselves.
Now is an important moment to donate to your local food bank and help them prepare for the wave of people who will be needing food bank assistance when they are unable to cash a paycheck. While you can certainly donate non-perishable food items, the most immediately helpful way to support your food bank is simply to donate funds.
Serve the practical needs of at-risk groups
Every day, fearful people are venturing out into the community to get practical goods like groceries and prescriptions. While you are in public places, behave calmly and with generosity. Keep your eyes and ears open to help people who may be afraid.
Rebecca Mehra of Oregon had her opportunity to be an everyday hero during a recent trip to the grocery store. An elderly woman in her car called out to her from the parking lot seeking help. She needed groceries, but was too terrified to enter the store. Speaking to Mehra through a cracked car window, she asked if Mehra would be willing to get the groceries for her? Mehra was happy to, accepted a $100 bill through the cracked car window and served the practical needs of this couple in their 80’s.
Many American children live in such food scarcity that they truly rely on their schools’ breakfast and lunch programs just to stay fed. Some school districts, like Detroit Public Schools, are closing their schools, but keeping meal programs open to the kids who need them.
Organize with your actual neighbors
If our society can open up communication channels to ask for help and also provide help, we can get through this. There currently is enough toilet paper to go around for all Americans, however, it’s now just hiding in closets rather than living on store shelves. If you are suddenly thrust into losing your childcare, there are people around you were also suddenly thrust into losing hours at work and may be able to help you, if you can find each other.
Now is a powerful time to connect with the people who live closest to you to offer each other support. A Google Form supporting people living in Seattle has exploded and is connecting people to practical local solutions. We expect to see more grassroots groups like this organize in the coming weeks.
Join Nextdoor or local Facebook groups to connect with your neighbors—notably, search for a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group in your city to find an overwhelmingly compassionate community of people offering up practical solutions for their neighbors’ needs.
Show mercy globally
It’s easy to narrow your focus to just the local and domestic impacts of the coronavirus, but this crisis is also causing suffering globally. Consider all the challenges currently facing America’s medical system and economy. How much more intensely will these challenges be felt in developing countries with underequipped hospitals and fewer government assistance programs for the general population?
Save the Children has been on the frontlines of helping epidemic-affected regions, including West Africa’s Ebola outbreak of 2014. Save The Children explains that “we are preparing response plans for all 120 countries where we work, with special attention to scenarios of high transmission rates in low-resource countries.” Donate to Save the Children’s coronavirus response fund to help ease the pandemic’s impact internationally.
Follow Health Recommendations
Lastly, one of the most merciful things you can do during this trying time is simply to follow the advice of government and healthcare leaders. Go above and beyond to keep your hands clean. Do as much social distancing as you can. If you feel sick, act quickly to remove yourself from others. Sacrifice immediate social pleasure for the well-being of everyone, especially for those in society who are most vulnerable.