Strange times

These are strange times. Supermarket shelves are empty. City streets are quiet. Public events are being cancelled. Countries are on lockdown. it feels like we are sitting waiting……for what?

Your perspective to a large extent depends on your age and the state of your health.

Young people who are healthy are tempted to wonder what all the fuss is about. Some are brazenly disregarding the Public Health Advice. No doubt many think this is much ado about nothing. They are waiting for it all to blow over.

For the first time, my husband and I find ourselves in the category of those who are a bit older and have health issues to think about. It’s a sobering place to be. And with that realisation comes a lot of questions: what are reasonable precautions? how can we put in place measures that will protect us and our loved ones and be sustainable? It could be a long wait till it’s all over.

But it helps me to think of everyone else who is in this category. Pastor Andrew Roycroft has written a brilliant blog here – let me just quote from it:

There are brothers and sisters in Christ to whom you might have spoken last Lord’s Day whose faith in the Lord’s providence is strong, but whose apprehension at what a wildfire virus might mean for them is valid. There are those in active service in their jobs and in their church who know that their everyday knife-edge is sharpened with every diagnosis in their district, for whom mortality statistics toll a bell rather than sounding a fanfare. There are elderly people in our midst who will soon need to decide between running the gauntlet of failing physical health through exposure to visitors, and failing mental health through isolation from society. To fire a salvo of Psalms at such people is pastorally naive, and quite possibly self-centred, as we will not invest our interaction with them with the empathy needed to see that sometimes the tightrope of daily discipleship is strung between faith and fear.

It’s not helpful to ‘fire a salvo of Psalms at such people’ – but it might be very helpful to do some of the following:

1. Keep in touch with them to see how they are doing – we are blessed by the ease with which we can do that – texts, WhatsApp messages, Facebook messages, FaceTime and Skype.

2. Offer to run errands for them – they might need food, drinks, prescriptions, etc.

3. Offer to give them lifts to medical appointments or other places they need to be.

4. Lend or give them books to read or DVDs to watch. if they can’t get to church and the sermon isn’t online, bring them a CD.

5. Leave meals at the doors of those who are self-isolating, with a kind message of support, and perhaps a bunch of daffodils.

We are hearing a lot about the mental anguish of the Coronavirus and by that we usually mean the anxiety and fear under which people are living as they wait. That is very real. But, as time goes on, people will also experience isolation from their communities and perhaps feelings of false guilt for infecting others – they will need connection, reassurance and support.

We are hearing some great stories about the creative ways in which people in other countries are managing this: Italians singing to each other from their balconies, Chinese people sharing food and meals with one another. Surely we in Ireland, who are known for our hospitality, can find ways to reach out to one another, instead of clearing all of the toilet roll from the supermarket shelves?

Let’s outdo one another with acts of kindness!

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