Statewide stay-at-home orders and no visitation policies at hospitals have resulted in my fielding countless phone calls from denominational leaders, local churches and nonprofit groups.
The conversations seem to go the same every time.
They begin with a discussion of the hospital’s visitation policy and proceed to an inquiry about how I am doing.
Then there is a slight pause followed by the phrase, “What can we do to help you all?”
Because I have been asked this repeatedly for two weeks, I have come up with three answers: You can provide, protect and participate.
Our denominations, associations and churches can provide much needed personal protective equipment.
Many of our faith groups regularly participate in mission trips, disaster relief, free clinics and construction projects. Often, these projects have extra supplies.
All over the country, we are hearing about civic groups, big corporations and even family-run grocery stores calling local hospitals and offering N95 respirators, industrial respirators, surgical masks and even eye protection.
Our faith-based organizations can do the same thing with their unneeded surplus.
It seems insignificant to give 50 respirators to a big city hospital, but it does two things: It provides desperately needed supplies and it reminds the health care workers that the community is behind them. Both have a greater impact than the item’s dollar value.
Next, we need to keep in mind that everyone of us has a moral and civic duty to protect each other by preventing the spread of COVID-19.
John Donne was correct when he said, “No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.”
Social distancing rules are not simply about protecting the individual from others, they are about protecting everyone.
Each person you encounter puts you in contact with the social circle of that person. That potentially could be a huge chain of infection in a short period of time.
Limiting social interaction helps to limit the rate at which the virus is spread. This, in turn, slows the number of new cases and eases tension upon a straining healthcare system.
By easing these tensions, the system can ensure that resources are available whenever someone gets infected, suffers a heart attack or experiences an automobile accident.
Last, we need to consider propping up our health care professionals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many feeling isolated; this includes health care workers working extra shifts at hospitals and clinics away from their families.
In places like New York, Washington and New Orleans, staff are working ridiculous hours. Some have not been home for weeks. Others are concerned about taking the virus home to small children.
It is difficult to focus on caring for the sick when you are worried about the welfare of your spouse or children.
Other staff have elderly parents with health issues who are stuck at home. They are concerned about their parents’ access to pharmacies and grocery stores.
Simply delivering food or making sure the kids are doing online schoolwork and staying out of trouble might seem like an insignificant favor, but it helps a bedside nurse stay focused upon the life he is trying to save.
In addition, health care workers are just as human as the rest of us. They have fears and get discouraged.
Keep in mind that most health care workers joined the profession because they wanted to help people.
Watching patients struggle to breathe or experience pain is depressing. Over time, you can feel like you are not making a difference.
Reaching out and listening to what is on their minds can help to remind them they are not alone.
Calling them on the phone to listen to their hearts and to pray for them is more than therapeutic, it keeps them connected and ensures they do not feel alone.
In this unprecedented time, we are seeing a virus grip the attention of the world, but we are also seeing amazing acts of simple kindness.
We are seeing ordinary people step up and provide hope and comfort. It is surprising how small acts have large results.
As religious and civic leaders, we need to step up and provide resources we do not need, continue to protect each other and actively prop up our health care professionals.
While these actions may seem small to some, they help keep our health care workers focused on what needs to be done without losing their humanity.