It seems like every time you open an email these days it contains the phrase “out of an abundance of caution” or “in these unprecedented times.” You might have felt an array of emotions over the last few weeks including fear, anger and sadness, and that’s understandable.
You also might be feeling a sense of helplessness, wanting to care for your neighbors, friends and other loved ones, but unsure of how to do so while still following your state and local regulations for health and safety.
How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus when we can’t spend quality time face-to-face?
After all, God still calls us to “keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 13:1) and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). It’s crucial to follow designated health precautions so that we don’t accidentally expose our neighbors (our literal and metaphorical ones) and loved ones to sickness.
But as we protect the most vulnerable of our world by social distancing, we can also follow God’s call to love our neighbors through some creative methods. Whether you do some or all of the ideas on this list, make sure to still follow proper handwashing, sanitization and other safety protocols that you and your family deem fit to care for yourselves and those around you.
5. Do errands for your elderly and/or high-risk neighbors.
There are people in your neighborhood who are elderly and some who might fall into a “high risk” category, even if they’re younger: people who are pregnant, have autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, cancer, etc.) or are taking medications that make them prone to illness. These individuals and families might be afraid to step into grocery stores, pharmacies or other places with crowds. They might even be hesitant to step outside of their front doors for fear of exposure to illness.
If you’re a healthy individual, you might be able to care for your neighbors by offering to go to the grocery store for them and then drop the groceries at their door. You can even ask if your neighbor needs yard work done or their driveway cleaned. Bring over your own tools to help accomplish the work.
Even if they don’t need any errands or yard work done, you can still call or text your at-risk neighbors to see if there is any way you can encourage or help them in the coming weeks.
4. Donate food or funds to a local food bank.
In your community, there are likely people who rely on food banks to supply meals for them and their families and nonprofits to provide non-food items too. An easy way that you can love your neighbors during this time is by donating food or money to a food bank in your city. If your city allows you to leave your home and you feel comfortable doing so, a lot of food banks have drop-off locations at warehouses where you can leave non-perishable food items that you and your family may not be using.
Additionally, check to see if there are nonprofits in your area that are in need of non-food items like antibacterial wipes, toilet paper, clothing, etc.
If you don’t feel comfortable dropping items off in-person or your city’s ordinances prevent it, you can always donate to global or local nonprofits and food banks online!
3. Virtually meet with your Bible study to pray and study Scripture.
You might be feeling lonely during this tumultuous time because you’re used to meeting face-to-face with your church or Bible study each week. While a lot of churches have transitioned to online services, a great way to maintain community with those in your congregation is by scheduling virtual Bible studies too!
Historically, the body of Christ hasn’t always been able to meet face-to-face. But the church can still thrive even when we meet virtually. There are plenty of free, downloadable resources like devotionals and videos available to use. (There are even printable kids’ resources to involve your kids in spiritual growth during this season too!)
Reserve time each week to meet with a new or existing Bible study. Even in a time of social distancing, Hebrews 10:24-25a remains a true call for us: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together” (ESV).
We can still meet virtually during this crisis to spur one another on, pray for each other and those suffering from illness, and consider things we can do in order to serve our communities. Even within the body of Christ, there are people who are elderly or immunocompromised. There are also people who suffer from anxiety or depression and are struggling with being isolated from their coworkers, friends and family. And there are some who are quarantined in homes with unhealthy or even abusive relationships and need prayers for safety as well as hope in Jesus.
Let’s serve those around us by inviting them into our virtual churches and Bible studies, by praying Scripture earnestly over those around us, and by asking God how we can love and serve our communities.
2. Support your favorite local business.
A lot of small businesses like restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries have already moved to take-out or delivery only, following ordinances enacted by their counties or cities. Others have closed their doors until they can reopen to the public. This significantly hurts revenue for these businesses and makes it difficult for those who work there to support their families. Consider either purchasing a take-out or delivery order from your favorite local business or buying a gift card to use after the crisis, if they’re available.
Tip generously, leave positive reviews of the business online and support them via social media. A lot of businesses are already coming up with creative ways to try and help their employees and their consumers during this season.
1. Send encouraging notes to essential workers and missionaries.
While you may be currently working from or mandated to stay at home, a lot of people deemed “essential” are not able to do so. Nurses, doctors, emergency workers, police officers, grocery store workers and more are still going to work every day in order to serve their communities.
If you’re quarantined at home with kids, a great way to show your local grocery store or hospital that you’re grateful for them is by having your family create handwritten notes, pictures or cards for essential workers. You can even get your Bible study to participate too and have a designated person deliver the encouraging notes.
If you don’t feel comfortable delivering cards in person, that’s okay! Here are a few digital ways that you can encourage people during this crisis:
Hand-write or draw cards, then take photos of them and post them on social media! Tag people and organizations to encourage them directly. A little encouragement can go a long way.
Write an email of encouragement to an essential worker or business, thanking them for the work that they’re doing and the sacrifices they’re making during this time.
Missionaries serving around the world right now are also dealing with this crisis and its impact. Living overseas for missionaries can often be lonely in the best of circumstances, but can be especially hard during seasons of extended isolation. Consider writing an encouraging message to a missionary. You might even become penpals with a missionary or family during this season!
We know that this is a difficult time for you and your family. As we navigate these unprecedented times (see, even we’re using that phrase!) together, remember that God’s Word remains true. As Galatians 6:9a encourages: “... Let us not grow weary of doing good” (ESV). God calls us to love him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That call is more necessary now than ever.
Let’s continue to love our neighbors — whether they’re six feet or 600 miles away.