The current situation with Covid-19 is one that few if any of us, and no one at this scale, have experienced in our lifetimes, and certainly presents challenges of many kinds with which we are not practiced. This crisis has erupted with what seems like close to no warning, and has required us to develop responses in very short time, perhaps shorter time than most of us can wrap our thinking around.
I am not equipped to offer any protocols, precautions, or informed direction, but fortunately there are many capable health care and public health officials, along with layers of community service persons and leaders, whose skills and training are being deployed to the public welfare. They have put themselves at the ready to offer us all guidance about how best to conduct ourselves during this time.
For my part, I would like to call us to mindfulness about the myriad people who are affected by this pandemic in so many different ways beyond illness. I just had a passing conversation with one of the chaplains at Holy Cross College who is part of the team on that campus who is working diligently to arrange for the return to their homes of the entire student body. This story is being repeated in campuses across the land. It presents a host of challenges for those involved and especially so for those whose lives are centered at their universities and who, for various reasons, may not have a home they cannot, or cannot easily, return to.
Economic disruption is one derivatives of this situation and while the effects of that may impact virtually everyone, they are falling with more impact on some members of our society than others. For most people in our immediate community, for example, having to arrange for child care should schools be canceled, may present as an inconvenience or even a serious disruption, but somehow most people will be able to cope. For many families in our wider communities, however, that sort of challenge can seem insurmountable to the point of immobilizing. For a single parent who might be working two low wage jobs to provide for a family, alternative care for children may not be available, and the option to work from home or suspend work may not be feasible. We are to understand as well that some children receive one or more meals through their schools and this is a primary source of nutrition for them. Furthermore, schools may provide psychological support in meaningful ways.
For the self-employed, the entrepreneur, the freelancer, the contract worker, and others who may not be connected with a business or institution which can provide benefits to supplement or replace lost income, there are no ready alternatives to replace lost income. For the myriad persons who live paycheck to paycheck with no balances in a bank account, or families or third parties to lend aid, any situation that disrupts income can quickly become bleak. For the many thousands and thousands of people in our society who plan on paying mortgages or rent from this week’s wages, this crisis takes on an added layer of grimness.
My point in stating the above, which is all painfully obvious but easy to overlook, is simply to remind us that we are connected to a much wider web of humanity than simply those groups or bodies or structures we may typically engage on a daily basis. There are countless numbers of people, many, or maybe most, of whom are part of this network, this interconnected hive, which constitutes the social order to which we all belong. This is an especially critical time I believe to be mindful of these many, many, others and to understand that they may presently and in immediate time to come, be in dire need that extends far beyond health concerns. If those people are particularly wounded by this crisis, then their wounds go to the whole body, which is all of us.
Given this, we should in my estimation, not just support but encourage our governmental and social service structures to provide as much emergency, even extraordinary, aid, support, relief, and sustenance as we can to those persons and families who have been laid low, perhaps twice laid low if they have been visited with illness, by the circumstances of this pandemic. It is a time to dispense with notions of “hand-outs,” or “free,” or “undeserving,” or “welfare.” The pain of the current circumstances around Covid-19 will be felt particularly intensely by some members of our society who through no doing of their own save that they are less advantaged than others of us, and it is for the whole to lend strength and life giving support to those members who are in extreme distress.