The devastation of COVID-19 moved close to home this week. I am across the street from one of the “hot spots” in South Carolina.
I live in a continuing care community. It was announced that 32 residents and two staff members in the healthcare facility have tested positive for the virus. They are housed only a few hundred yards from where I am “sheltered in place.”
I watch as staff members occasionally come outside for a break. A few times, I’ve spotted a family member appearing outside the window, attempting to provide support and comfort.
And, my daughter is the director of social services in a nearby long-term care facility. Although her facility has no cases, at least yet, the building is in lock-down; and she worries about either unknowingly bringing the virus in or taking it home to her family.
Those across the street are my close neighbors. Many of the staff members are friends. I have worshiped with them, joked with them, shared ministry with them. Now they are putting their lives on the line.
I feel powerless to respond! I can’t visit. Even notes and cards from the outside are forbidden. The campus chaplain is there for spiritual support. She is marvelous! Sensitive! Compassionate!
I can and do pray for them. But, are there ways I can provide concrete answers to those prayers?
It is a small thing, but I’m going to get more flowers for my backyard since the residents can look down from their rooms. We all need beauty, especially when surrounded by grief and potential death.
I’ll be intentional in providing words of support for the staff, and I’ll be patient if I have needs that aren’t met quickly or efficiently.
I will also abide by the CDC guidelines and protect myself against the virus and avoid carrying the virus to others. I’ve added those practices as “spiritual disciplines” and acts of love. I’ll wear a mask in public out of respect for the health of others.
I will also advocate for the most vulnerable and those on the frontlines of care. That means insisting that policies in response to the pandemic be based on science and facts, not on political expediency and selfish advantage.
There is a lot of dangerous religious nonsense circulating with the pandemic. Claiming that the virus is God’s punishment only adds to the suffering and totally mischaracterizes the nature and action of God.
The notion that God is inflicting the virus on my neighbors across the street is blatant blasphemy; and any who suggests such are insulting God and my neighbors.
God is present amid the pandemic, suffering with those most at risk and sustaining those who care for them. God is also present in those researchers and practitioners who are diligently seeking therapies and vaccines.
As I sit in my sunroom and look across the street where several neighbors live with COVID-19, I sense that life will never be the same for them or us.
I pray that we will so live among those most at risk that we will emerge from the pandemic a more compassionate people.