Covid-19 is set to put most everything on hold in the United States, as it is already doing in China, Italy, South Korea, and Norway.
Early on in this cycle, as news started trickling out about the virus and its spread, I was a scoffer. “We’re overreacting,” I said to my partner. “This is just crazy.”
And then the deaths started in the United States. And confirmed cases started rising not by tens, but by hundreds, in a week.
“I’m youngish and healthy,” I thought. “I’ll be fine.”
Which is a natural thought…but was only looking out for me. I’m not at risk, but I still have a role to play here. And so do you.
The tide is coming, and we have a choice as a nation: implement severe caution now in the short-term, or clean up from a deadly disaster in the long-term. The stakes are pretty clear at this point.
The problem is that the last generation to really tighten their belts and do the hard work of social sacrifice was the Greatest Generation, and most of them have passed on. Through rubber shortages and food rationing, to the social distancing that was necessitated during the Spanish flu and polio years (they were children then, but certainly felt the sting), that generation understood what it meant to sacrifice for the greater good, and that’s just never really been asked of the United States since, thank God.
Even the draft in Vietnam, while certainly difficult and earth-shaking for many, did not bring the United States to its knees in the way we’re slowly being brought to a stop now.
We’ve been here before in World Wars and epidemics of the past, but for most of us, we’ve never been here before.
And we need to embrace the moment to show that we can do it, and that we understand the risks involved.
In this time we are being called to sacrifice for our neighbors; we’re all being drafted into this, and we must answer the call, hopefully for only a short while.
But if it’s longer, so be it. We can do this, together.
At its best, Christianity is a religion that mandates (not just encourages, but mandates) that adherents look out first and foremost for “the least of these.” In this moment, those people are not only the ones who are at most risk of catching and dying from this virus, but also children who will go without food because schools are canceled, families who will scramble to find childcare as that is canceled, workers who rely on mass gathering for their wages, and small businesses with small margins who will see a huge reduction in traffic.
So, what to do? Here are just some ideas…
-Consider take-out from your favorite place, or buy a gift-certificate to use after the crisis.
-Check on elderly neighbors and offer to go shopping for them for staples (note: toilet paper is a staple, but no one needs a million rolls to get us through this…Covid-19 does not cause diarrhea).
-Give a lump-sum donation to your local food bank, now, to get them over the hump.
-If you go to a church, give your regular offering even if worship is suspended. Mail in the check, or give online.
-If you are in charge of large gatherings, put them on hold for a few weeks.
-Support local artists who live gig to gig with a Patreon donation or a gift in honor of their creative work.
-If you have predictable income, maybe give a gift to someone who is losing wages because they don’t have paid sick-leave or have been furloughed without pay (which may happen).
-Stay home as much as possible. Seriously. And if you do go out, stay away from others as much as possible.
-Offer gift-cards or even meals (as long as no one in your family is sick) to families with nurses, EMTs, police officers, or fire personnel.
-Wash your hands. A lot. Not just for you, but for others.
-Offer your home to people for whom home isn’t a safe place. As long as we’re symptom free, small gatherings are not bad.
-Talk on the phone. A lot. Especially to people who may feel extra lonely during these days of social isolation.
We can do this. Let’s channel the best parts of the Greatest Generation and all do our share (not just fair share, but even extreme share) to make this a footnote in the annals of history.