As we isolate ourselves from others physically, it’s easy to cut ourselves off in other ways, too. “Flatten the curve” can become a pretext for fearful and selfish self-preservation. The run on toilet paper illustrates this. In panic, people are hoarding as much as they can get their hands on, as if toilet paper even has anything to do with a virus. But if we all bought only the recommended two-week supply of essentials, there would be no shortage. Fear and isolation can lead us to be concerned only about our own interests.
But Galatians 6:10 tells us, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
We have a tremendous opportunity in this time. The need is great. Instead of looking only to ourselves and our family, let us reach out and serve others. However, this crisis is unique. Nancy Wartik writes in The New York Times, “In many crises, people quickly come out to lend a hand. With coronavirus, however, we are being told to keep our hands to ourselves.”
So how can we help? Here are six ways.
First, offer to help those who are sick, elderly, or at greater risk to the virus. This is perhaps the most important. Do you have an elderly neighbor? Is your friend sick with the virus? Do you know someone with heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease? Offer to buy them groceries or pick up prescriptions or ask if there are other ways you can help. And when you come into contact with them, be sure to take every precaution to avoid giving them the virus!
Second, donate to your local food bank. Food banks are expecting an increased demand in the coming weeks and months. More working adults will be struggling to get by on fewer or no hours, and students who rely on school cafeterias for meals will need to look elsewhere. Donate online or consider volunteering to serve if you’re healthy and not at a high risk for the virus.
Third, give blood. From The New York Times: “The nation’s blood supply faces a dire shortage. . . While donor blood is not being used to treat coronavirus patients, transfusions are still needed for cases such as trauma, organ transplants or complications of childbirth” As we’re told to isolate ourselves, fewer and fewer people are making appointments to give blood. But donating blood is still an essential need, like keeping grocery stores and hospitals open. “Red blood cells are viable for 42 days, platelets for only five, so it’s essential to keep new donations coming in.” The CDC “encourages people who are well to continue to donate blood if they are able, even if they are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19.” Given the supply levels, you can almost certainly save a life.
Fourth, support and encourage healthcare workers. They’re the ones on the front lines. Not only are they the ones putting themselves at risk to the virus, they’re also being stretched thin. My wife works at a hospital in New York City. Her work is already getting more stressful, and it will only continue to get worse as hospitals become overcrowded and resources stretched even more thin. If you know a healthcare worker, send them a gift card or text them to let them know you’re praying for them. Think also about grocery store workers, delivery drivers, doormen and anyone else who doesn’t have the luxury of working from home. Find ways to express your gratitude and support them.
Fifth, where possible, support small businesses and tip generously. Many small businesses are in danger of closing forever, and they may not be able to continue paying their workers. “We all need to be worried about the corner diner and the new coffee shop and the bodega and the small nonprofit organizations,” Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University told The NYT. Buy a gift card so they have cashflow during this time, and use it once things settle down. If you order food and can afford it, why not tip 50% or even 100%?
Lastly, find creative ways to connect with and encourage others. As Priya Parker writes in The New York Times, “In addition to the humanitarian and economic catastrophe we face, we are entering a gathering recession.” Thankfully we live in an age where physical isolation doesn’t have to mean relational isolation. “We have an opportunity to be creative with the digital tools that previous generations couldn’t have imagined.
David is a pastor at Exilic Church in New York City. He and his wife, Meifung, live in Midtown Manhattan and enjoy trying new restaurants and sitting in the park on a warm, sunny day.