Since we can all use some encouragement these days, we’ll begin this morning with Rita Wilson’s “Quarantunes.”
As you know, she and her husband, Tom Hanks, are in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus. To help pass the time, she has made a playlist for those dealing with social distancing. Her song choices include “All By Myself,” “Lonely People,” “So Far Away,” and “Right Here Waiting.” But it also includes “I Will Survive” and “Amazing Grace.”
In other news, the CDC announced last night that it is advising against gatherings of fifty people or more for the next eight weeks. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated that New York City’s public school system will be shutting down this week. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders engaged in a presidential debate last night without a live audience. And churches across the country held worship services online rather than in person.
These are all responses to social distancing, an imperative that is more urgent than ever.
Knifing a man over toilet paper
According to the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, we need a “dramatic” reduction in social activity to fight the spread of coronavirus. He warned yesterday that America’s death toll from the disease depends on our response.
As statistical models show, the sooner we take steps to end public gatherings, close workplaces and some schools, engage in mass testing, and fortify hospitals, the better. Without such intervention, one model predicts that a third of Americans—more than one hundred million people—could become infected and one million could die.
Tragically, crises such as this can bring out the worst in humanity. A woman at an Australian supermarket allegedly knifed a man in a confrontation over toilet paper. A student of Chinese ethnicity was beaten on the streets of London and left with a fractured face. Protesters welcomed returning cruise passengers (none of whom was infected) by hurling abuse and rocks at them.
But crisis can also bring out our best. Rudy Gobert, the first NBA player to test positive for coronavirus, and other players are donating money to those affected by the league’s suspension of play. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is doing the same. Sports stars in South Korea are giving to relief efforts.
Think of your grandparents
One of the ways God wants to redeem this crisis is by showing us how much we need him. But the Lord also wants to redeem it by showing us how much we need each other.
It is difficult to make sacrifices that don’t seem necessary at the time. If America were Italy and huge numbers of us were sick and dying, we would obviously see the need for social distancing and other sacrifices for the common good. However, to keep their experience from becoming ours, we must act as if it were.
The key is to reframe personal sacrifice as service to others.
According to the CDC, older adults and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are at higher risk from COVID-19. Data from China showed a mortality rate among those with cardiovascular disease of 10.5 percent; for those with no underlying conditions, it was 0.9 percent. For those under fifty years of age, the death rate was 0.4 percent or less; for those over eighty years of age, it was 14.8 percent.
This means that social distancing is not just to keep you from becoming infected—it is to keep you from infecting others, especially those at greater risk from the disease.
Think of your parents or grandparents. Imagine them not getting medical care because you became infected and took the hospital bed or respirator they needed. You would never willingly do this, of course. It would not be a sacrifice to do whatever you could to give them what they need.
“Their risk tolerance should be our risk tolerance”
Such service is at the heart of the Christian faith. According to Jesus, we prove our love for him by the way we love others (John 13:35). When we serve “the least of these,” we serve our Lord (Matthew 25:40).
Such service means that we must modify our lives for the sake of others. David French notes, “If we are in part responsible for the care of older and sicker Americans, then we need to adjust our own behavior. If we’re present with older parents and friends, then their risk tolerance should be our risk tolerance.”
It means that we should seek practical ways to help those in greater need than ourselves. For instance, we can buy gift cards online to local restaurants to help them financially. We can donate to food banks to help students and others with meals. We can find ways to encourage health care workers and at-risk people, especially the elderly.
And it means that we should become a national army of intercessors for our nation’s physical and spiritual wellbeing. President Trump’s call for yesterday to be a National Day of Prayer was an appropriate and urgent reminder that we should be interceding every day for our leaders and people.
“Prayer for a Pandemic”
To that end, I’d like to close by inviting you to share with me a prayer that a dear friend forwarded to my wife over the weekend. It is titled “Prayer for a Pandemic” by Dr. Cameron Wiggins Bellm of Seattle, Washington:
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have had to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
Let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.