These are very unsettling times. Everything about the current situation is strange and unknown. The Covid-19 pandemic is unlike any other we’ve known. It’s partly because the virus is new and unknown, but also because it presents the most danger to people who are already vulnerable; those with existing health issues and those over the age of 70, who are said to have lower immune resilience.
Also unsettling to most is the official advice to live and work as separately from others as possible. If you, or someone you live with, develops symptoms, you must completely self-isolate - sending a warning that we will be denied the assurance and help of others at the very time we need it.
Human beings need connection with one another, especially in times of crisis.
So how can you help?
CALL SOMEONE WHO'S ALONE
Who in your community could do with a chat? Arrange to give them a ring once or twice a week, not just to offer practical support like dropping off shopping but to be a listening ear. You might also want to share your own news and thoughts, and you may want to take the time to pray together over the phone.
HELP OUT WITH THE SHOPPING
Sainsbury’s, Iceland and Asda have both announced reserved shopping times for older people and priority for order deliveries. Could you take an older neighbour out at one of the given times, or could you help them do an online order – or do it for them if they give you a list? If not, are you able to do their shopping and drop it off for them?
SET SOMEONE UP ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media will increase significantly in the coming months – could you help set up an isolated friend with a Facebook account? While there can be challenges with social media, at times like these the digital connectivity can be really good for our souls. Encouraging those who aren’t on social media, or aren’t very confident on it, could really help them to feel less isolated even if they are alone in their home.
We also know that older people are increasingly comfortable with tablets and iPads, and more and more families are using Skype, What’s App video calling and FaceTime to keep in touch. Could you help get someone set up on a smart phone, or become more confident about using it?
SUPPORT OTHERS TO BE PART OF CHURCH REMOTELY
The church has always been excellent at supporting and encouraging those who are lonely or isolated, but now they, too, have to distance themselves for fear of passing on the virus. It’s important that they heed the message being given, says our Director of Operations, Maureen Sim, “As an organisation we are following the government guidelines, and although churches can’t risk taking the virus to them by visiting, they can help in other ways.”
Many churches are already streaming worship services online. Can your church stream your services online or perhaps share links to other churches who are? Can you make sure that older people know where to find episodes of Songs of Praise on BBC iPlayer, or know when to tune into the Daily Service on Radio 4?
In all of this, it’s important to ground ourselves in prayer. Our situation is rather like that on Lake Galilee when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus (Mark 4: 35-41.) They were experienced fishermen; they knew those waters and those storms, but they knew that this one was different – it was life-threatening. But in the boat with them was Jesus, and they turned to Him.
We can turn to Jesus in this storm, and although prayer is woven into the fabric of our lives and work, in this season we can determine to start each day with prayer.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.