What should we do? Seriously! How can God-loving, people-loving, life-loving folks be a people who are compassionate and caring right now? If you are like me, it’s hard to re-imagine new ways of caring — especially while we try to keep a distance and curb the spread of covid-19 that is plaguing our world right now.
Someone came into the church yesterday and was in need. Real need. I’m talking no place to stay tonight, existing life-threatening-illness getting worse, no food, about to be jobless, bills to pay, no where to go kind of need. True need. True desperation. Why else would they walk in off the street and share so honestly through unending tears with a stranger? Why else would they sit with guarded hope in my office as I listened to their story? Why else would they reach out?
Nadia Bolz-Webber recently wrote a blog titled, “God’s ‘No Leper Left Behind’ Program.” In this article she quotes a passage from Leviticus 13:45 that talks about how people with leprosy in antiquity would often be sent out of the town to live away from everyone else. They were required to call out, “unclean, unclean” as they approached anyone. Seriously. Can you imagine having what is today, a treatable illness, and having to yell out “unclean” anytime you saw someone!? Bolz-Webber writes: “maybe folks in Jesus’ day didn’t really want lepers around, not just because of public health but also because lepers make human frailty and brokenness so disturbingly visible; their bodies a reminder of what could happen to any of us.”
This global pandemic (and during Lent too!) is a reminder of just how fragile — how precious — life is. I don’t like to be reminded of this. There is something so holy and so hard on Ash Wednesday when (if you participate in this kind of thing) someone takes some ash and smudges it on my forehead while they tell me: “from the dust you were created, to the dust you shall return.” I love this reminder. This is a hard reminder to hear. It’s even harder to see it playing out on a global stage.
So what can we do? How can we help our neighbors — especially those who are must vulnerable? How can we be a reminder that yes, life is short and precious — but God is at work even now loving and healing and caring and redeeming? How do we do this? What do we do?
If you are hoping for a lovely and concise answer that makes everything perfectly clear, you better look somewhere else. I, like many (maybe even you), don’t have all the answers. But there are some great people, ideas and resources out there. Below are some that I’ve seen that may be helpful. Please share what you’ve found too.
We will get through this, but only if we stop making each other yell “unclean” for every bit of human fragility we show. Only if we stop pretending we can get through this alone. Only if we look to see how God is working and loving, even here and now. I love you. I’m with you. I’m praying for you.
- Reach Out — Write someone a note, a physical note. Maybe I’m alone on this one, but I love getting personal letters in the mail. Write someone a letter and tell them what you love about them. Tell them how wonderful you think they are. Tell them how precious they are and that you are grateful for them. Or just say hello! If hand-written notes aren’t your thing, text, message, video-chat, email, REACH OUT. According to Pew Research, at least 1 in 4 people feel lonely on a daily basis. The number goes up for those who feel lonely on a weekly basis. But we are not alone! Reach out and tell someone you are with them.
- Give — Resources in non-profits and emergency services are being emptied quickly. Consider how you might be able to financially support a local organization. A quick Google search for “non-profits near me” will almost definitely return a plethora of resources for you. In Charlotte, here are some I’m connected to: Urban Ministry Center (click here for their Amazon wish list); Second Harvest Food Bank (it’s broader than Charlotte and a gets money/food into local communities fast); Friendship Trays (volunteer to drive meals to folks in need); direct folks with children needing meals to this document for breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday in the Charlotte are.
- Reach In — As we find ourselves ripping through our favorite Netflix show (or is that just me?!), we may find we have extra time on our hands. As you look to give and reach out, don’t forget to care for yourself. Now is a good time to examine how you are in mind, body and spirit. Pick up a good book (I am reading bell hooks’ “Belonging” and Henri Nouwen’s “Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety” right now); start a new devotion (I recommend downloading the “You Version Bible App” that has TONS of free plans for reading the Bible); try a new practice (click Lectio Divina for simple instructions on trying to pray through reading the Bible — maybe start with Psalm 46). “Come” to church this Sunday using Facebook Live or another streaming platform. Click here on Sunday at 10am for a service I’ll be part of.
Friends, I am grateful for the compassion and courage so many of you are showing right now. You are amazing and I’m overwhelmed with hope for how we might come out of this stronger, more connected. If you need someone to talk to (or someone to listen), I am here. If you are looking for some way to stay connected, I am here. If you find yourself asking the question, “What can I do?” you are not alone — and I think we are on the right path, together.
If you ever doubt you can make a difference, remember this quote from a woman who truly helped to change the world she was a part of:
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
— Mother Teresa
I love you. Grace & Peace, Pastor Cole
Painting by artist Juan Carlos López Meza is currently displayed at Duc In Altum at Magdala.