There is a move to contain the spread of the virus here in our area with schools closing, events being cancelled and companies urging employees to work from home. I've heard from those who aren't concerned about it in the least chalking it up with overblown scares in the past, and others who are anxiety-ridden, at-risk or find themselves quarantined with life very much disrupted! As with anything, our perspectives are largely dependent upon our level of privilege and proximity to the threat.
And so I have been asked the question, as followers of Jesus, what is our response to be? And in keeping with the teachings of Jesus and oddly enough paralleling the Lenten journey, I believe we are called to both constraint and generosity that resists fear and moves us toward love.
I believe we must use wisdom and discretion certainly, if not for our own sake, for the sake of those who are vulnerable among us. Many of us are young(ish) and healthy and would survive the virus just fine. But unfortunately, there are others who are more susceptible to its life-threatening effects. And so I urge you to follow the recommendations of King County Public Health. Wash your hands (religiously in this case!) and stay at home if you are are feeling ill. For those of you considered to be high risk, it is recommended that you stick close to home and stay away from large gatherings. Following precautions and using constraint acknowledges the simple truth that we are all connected and that our individual actions have impact on the collective whole.
At the same time, as people of faith, we are called not to fear but to courageous love that compels us to love our neighbor as ourself. And so let us resist the urge to panic, to lock our doors and hoard our resources. Historically, Christians have been known for their self-sacrificing compassion and care for the sick during times of plague or sweeping illness. [Check out the response of Christians in Wuhan!] And so let us look beyond our own concerns and look out for the welfare of our neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable. Here is a wonderful article that talks a little about our own invitation toward transformation: Corona: Disorder as Transformation.
If you are a younger and healthier individual who is fully capable of heading to the store without taking your life in your hands, remember those like my 83-year-old neighbor who should not be in public spaces. If you know of those who are ill, make sure they get the medical care they need. If you have friends or co-workers who are quarantined and isolated, reach out to offer some support, even if it is through your iphone or computer screen. If you are shopping or going out to a restaurant, support your local businesses (perhaps especially Asian business) that might be hard hit in this time. Let us be known for our love, our kindness and our generosity.
By practicing both constraint and generosity, we attest to the reality that we are not rugged individualists independent or silo'd away from "the other". We are more connected than we often recognize. We are meant to be a body, connected and diverse, each part contributing and affecting the flourishing of the whole.
And in a time of widespread fear and all the worst that kicks up in people in the midst of anxiety, we can offer comfort, peace, kindness, mercy and hope. For we will journey this Lenten season toward the Love of God that holds us, surrounds us and pursues us tenaciously. And we are invited to turn away from fear and scarcity and turn towards a generous and courageous love.
by Jessica Ketola