Hal Brady

Hal Brady

In a recent issue of “The Christian Science Monitor” (April 13, 2020), I read a very enlightening editorial entitled, “Mercy for the lonely in a pandemic.” The editorial, written by Ned Temko, stated that when the British government became serious after the coronavirus outbreak, officials asked for volunteers to assist the loneliest people in the nation who were told to remain isolated for three weeks. These officials hoped that 250,000 volunteers would sign up, be given safety training, and deliver goods and companionship, even if digitally, to an estimated 1.5 million vulnerable people — mainly older people living alone.

It was at this juncture that the surprising and inspiring part of the story occurred. Within 24 hours, more than 500,000 people volunteered to help.

The point or at least one of the main points of the editorial is that with such outreach the narrative of fear and isolation is being shifted to one of neighborliness and community.

Right here is my reason for sharing this hopeful and encouraging example. How can we also help shift this narrative of fear and isolation that we are in to one of neighborliness and community? Undoubtedly, you will have ideas and if acted upon, will be a blessing to others and to you.

The following are several of my thoughts on this same vital subject of shifting the narrative from fear and isolation to one of neighborliness and community.

First, be mindful that this is God’s intention! Jesus’ great commandment to love God and your neighbor as yourself is not accidental. God created us and put us here to lose ourselves in service to Him and others.

In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan simply enters into the hurting man’s situation. He has compassion. And, of course, the word compassion means “to suffer with.” It means to suffer alongside, to enter fully into the circumstances of the other, sharing whatever comes.

Second, be intentional! Since everyone is dealing with the uncertainty of the coronavirus and the daily doses of unsettling news, the tendency is to hunker down and focus on “me and mine.” But if each of us would contact three to five other people everyday this social distancing could become what the World Health Organization prefers, only “physical distancing.”

Another way of being intentional in helping people overcome fear and isolation is by writing them letters. There’s a story about Gina Hamadey in the June issue of “Reader’s Digest.” Mrs. Hamadey wrote 365 “thank you” notes in a year. She stated, “I wrote each note by hand, with a pen, never on a computer, and mailed or hand delivered them all.” What a blessing this would be to a person in isolation.

Third, volunteer or give generously to worthwhile causes! Knowing of the millions of our American brothers and sisters who are out of work and others who are also struggling to feed their families, God is laying a heavy burden upon all our hearts to give generously and support food banks and other agencies who are working hard to provide food for families. Like you, I have given already, but the overwhelming need continues, and all of us are needed to give more.

What better way to demonstrate that we really are all in this together?

Fourth, offer prayer for others! In praying on behalf of others, we are only cooperating with God, entering into partnership with God’s purposes of neighborliness and community.

The late Lloyd Ogilvie, former chaplain of the United States Senate, said, “Intercessory prayer is God putting His burden on our hearts.” So we pray for the isolated and fearful believing that we are channels for the power of God to flow into the situation and enhance their lives.

Well, there you have it — four possible ways to alter the narrative from fear and isolation to neighborliness and community. And all it will take is caring volunteers!

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The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.

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