The Corona virus (or COVID-19) is disrupting our sense of community in so many ways.
Events like South by Southwest in Austin and Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con have been canceled or postponed. These are events that many people attend year after to year to gather with others who share their interests. They gather with their people, to be in community…and those gatherings aren’t happening.
In some communities, religious congregations have stopped meeting all together, and in every community, churches are having to alter how they perform rituals central to their faith practice, like communion and passing of the peace.
The ever-evolving situation is drawing our attention to the most vulnerable in our community. Not only to the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, but to those who don’t have paid sick leave or adequate/any health insurance. To those who make their living from the service industry and are being laid off because so many people (both the quarantined and the cautious) have stopped going to coffee shops and restaurants and bars–another place where many find community.
If we weren’t before, we are now acutely aware of how many people in our country don’t have the support systems, benefits and access to healthcare that should be available to all.
Fear is causing people to be selfish and mean. Does it ever occur to people who buy and hoard every ounce of soap and hand sanitizer they can find are preventing others from having access to those things? Those who are being quarantined in their homes are getting death threats from co-workers and neighbors. And all of this over a virus that is no worse than the flu for the majority of people who contract it.
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to your span of life?Luke 12:25
And on top of all the fear for our health, anxiety about the overall economy and personal lost wages, we’re not supposed to touch each other.
I get that the science behind the no-touching policy is legit, but I’m a hugger. I was holding the hands of AIDS patients in the 90s when nurses were telling me not to. My non-hugger sister-in-law has totally thrown in the towel and fully expects an embrace now. For me, a privileged person with excellent health insurance, not reaching out to touch other people is the hardest part of the epidemic.
I am confident in my ability to hole up in my apartment for many days–as long as the Wifi, reading material and yarn supply don’t run out, but people need to be touched.
That may sound a little creepy in this #metoo era, but the need to be hugged and touched is also rooted in science… and Rick Springfield.
So what to do we do in the midst of this community and compassion-threatening virus?
Reach out to your people–with calls, Face time, texts, whatever. When we’re not able to literally reach out and touch someone, it’s important to stay in touch and maintain that connection.
Don’t bogart the supplies. If you really want to stay healthy during a viral outbreak, then you want EVERYONE to be able to access soap and hand sanitizer. If you’ve already stocked up, consider sharing. A dollop of hand sanitizer goes a long way.
Do what you need to do to feel safe and follow guidelines in your community, but don’t let fear hold you hostage in your own life.
Don’t neglect your faith life just because you can’t get to church. Join an online Bible study or prayer group. Phone a friend and pray together every day. Send old-fashioned snail mail to member of your faith community to let them know you are thinking about and praying for them.
In times when you are feeling lonely and isolated, reach out. We have so many ways to connect to one another these days, and while IRL is almost always preferable, our virtual options are amazing.
We all need community–especially when so many of our communities are being put on hold for now.
And if you end up quarantined at home with your family, give and get lots of hugs. You’ll probably need them to survive–even if no one contracts the virus.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.