Life in general is cancelled right now. We’re all huddled in our homes, doing what we can to use distance to keep ourselves and others safe.
One of the dangers in this era of social distance is that we become self-absorbed — that our concern extends only to our own small circle of loved ones. But that’s no way to live. We’re most fully ourselves when we are outward-focused, when we love others — especially those in need. However, many of us find it more challenging in the current climate to know how to best respond in an outward way.
Beyond following the guidelines of the CDC and WHO on practicing good hygiene and social distancing, how can we better follow the call to love our neighbors most in need?
Contact your neighbors
National speaker Ennie Hickman likes to pose the question to his audiences, “When Jesus says love your neighbor, what if he meant your neighbor-neighbor?” In other words, what do your literal neighbors need? Are there senior adults who live on your street or your apartment complex? If you have their phone numbers, give them a call. If not, knock on their door and speak to them from a distance (remaining outside). Whether or not they answer, leave a “calling card” with a note including your name, phone number, and a list of ways you can help. They may just want someone to talk to about their anxieties, or maybe you can pick up some groceries or medication for them.
Give to a local non-profit
Many non-profits that are used to offering daily services to their clients are having to re-think their operations. For example, soup kitchens that normally offer dining-in services are instead distributing to-go meals in bags. These kinds of changes mean many non-profits need different resources than normal. Think of three local non-profits you are familiar with and search for them on social media. Many have posted their specific needs; some will include a list of grocery items, others will simply ask for cash donations. Some non-profits might also have a need for volunteers under certain conditions because their usual volunteer roster is mostly comprised of senior adults. If you are a healthy young adult who currently has more free time due to changes in your school or work schedule, perhaps you can donate your time if there are ways you and the organization can remain safe.
Reach out to your friends
Do you have friends who struggle with anxiety? They may need someone to listen to their concerns without being dismissive. Do you have friends who are extroverts? Perhaps you can schedule an online video chat “date” with them. Do you have friends who are at risk of losing their jobs? Send a simple text to let them know you are thinking of them and offer to bring them a meal. Do you know any working parents who need help with childcare, especially now that most schools and daycares are closed? Make a direct offer to those individuals to help them (but do not be offended if they choose to keep their children home).
Eligible and healthy donors are urgently needed at this time.
Think about the homebound and nursing home residents
Contact your parish office and see if they are able to share a list of their homebound parishioners. Perhaps you can call them on the phone or mail them a card. Ask the same of some of your local nursing homes. People in these situations are facing a lot of anxiety and worry right now, and they are doing so alone — a reassuring word that you are thinking about them will mean a lot.
Are there local restaurants in your area who could use some business at this time? Place an order and, if you have the means to, leave a generous tip.
While the suggestions above have focused on local opportunities, people around the world are in need of our prayers. Prayer will connect us to God and those most in need and can help us look outside of ourselves. More than ever, there are people suffering and dying in countries where medical resources are not available. In addition to those who suffering from illness, pray for medical staff, scientists, small business owners, the unemployed, and those who do not have anyone to pray for them.
As a last note, keep in mind that it is most helpful to make direct offers of support. Personal narratives from those who have been through crisis reveal it is less likely that someone will respond to a general social media post or a “let me know how I can help” statement. Instead, reach out to an individual or organization in need and tell them what you can do.