How to be a good neighbor in during a pandemic.

The news here outside of Houston is full of stories about supplies running low at grocery stores and people hoarding medical masks. Fear can bring out the worst in us, but fear does not give us an pass on living out our faith. We are still called to be disciples and to love our neighbors.

So how do you love your neighbor well, while practicing appropriate social distancing?

The Obvious

Follow public health recommendations:

  • Wash your hands often–more often than you think necessary.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow if you have allergies.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces often.
  • If you are sick, only leave home for medical treatment.

The Seemingly Obvious

Respect people’s boundaries. You may not be that concerned about virus transmission. But the person you just insisted on hugging might have an elderly parent at home. Social distancing is uncomfortable because it breaks our habits. But a mild aggravation on my part is a small price to pay for the health and safety of my more vulnerable neighbors.

Only buy what you need. Yes, it is a good idea to have 14 days worth of supplies on hand for your household. You don’t need 14 months’ worth of toilet paper. Remember that everyone around you is experiencing the same needs and anxieties. 

Be extra patient with yourself and others. We are social creatures; whether we like it or not, when the herd stress starts to climb, our anxiety will creep up with it. There’s a reason the Bible has so many instances of God telling people, “Don’t’ be afraid.” Fear makes us do questionable things. Remind those around you its okay to take precautions, but they don’t need to panic.  

The Less Obvious

A crisis like this always has unintended consequences. Now is a time to keep your eyes open for unexpected needs. For instance:

Support small businesses. Drops in sales are survivable for Walmart and Olive Garden. The cafe down the street depends on a certain amount of traffic to stay afloat. If you’re staying in and eating in more, think about buying a gift card directly from your favorite local shops. The income could mean a lot right now, and you get a treat later.   

Tip well. Even if the corporate side of a chain restaurant can survive a hit, the servers and bussers are still trying to pay rent. If they have fewer tables, that gets a lot harder.

Offer to watch children out of school. Not every job can be done from home. If the schools close for a week or more, that can be a tremendous strain for parents with few backup options. An afternoon you spend babysitting might be a shift they don’t have to call off of work.

Check on people who live alone. Social distancing will be hardest on people who are already socially distant. If you are an 85-year-old widow and your only regular time with people is weekly bridge and church, it means a great deal if bridge or church is canceled. Call and check on those that might be lonely.

Donate cleaning and hygiene supplies to non-profits. Self-quarantine is difficult if you don’t have a permanent home or depend on charity and social services to survive. Those places are likely to even higher traffic and need extra help.

Times of fear and uncertainty should make us more aware of our neighbors, not less. Take this season as an opportunity to practice serving others in small ways and loving as Jesus loved.

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