My heart is aching.
For days my heart has been moving from grief to sadness and anger.
And not for reasons why you might think. I don’t know how to share this other than to spew this out onto a blog post and pray to God that my heart is heard.
I have read message after message about how using social distancing is for the protection of our most vulnerable population.
And I believe it.
I believe that by staying away from each other we are minimizing the spread of this virus protecting the health-compromised and allowing our health care system time to treat those who are in need.
But social distancing also puts millions of vulnerable at risk.
And the church is too busy fretting about their own needs to see it.
I see the church spinning, trying to figure out how to have service, how to make people feel connected, how to allow for online giving while creating ways for those within their communities to have their community and spiritual needs met.
These efforts are good.
It’s actually exciting to see how, when forced, the church has been able to be innovative in how to connect with their congregations.
But I can’t help but think these efforts are focused on how their congregants, givers and members are able to experience church and connection.
In one word: self-serving.
We are so busy trying to create digitally what we had physically. Walls.
Previous efforts to produce programs, groups, buildings and services have turned to how to produce a sense of normalcy, continue giving and create the most beautiful experience for church members.
Still inward focused if you ask me.
Back to my point, the goal of social distancing is to protect the vulnerable.
My heart is breaking for the vulnerable who are now forced to suffer silently, hidden away in their homes.
Men, women and children are trapped inside, facing their inner demons.
The longer the isolation the longer they suffer and the greater number of stories we are going to see of domestic assault, addiction, cyber bullying, child abuse and exploitation and suicide.
These are the hidden sufferers.
Millions here in North America are trapped in their own homes suffering at the hands of their family. Victims of domestic violence are no longer able to find respite in the community.
With so many off of work, the stressors build and violence can be relentless.
When victims are captured in their own homes with many shelters closed and community agencies limiting services there is nowhere to turn for help.
Besides, with food bank donations dwindling and the limits to gather even more barriers to accessing food have been created.
And thank God for Jimmy Fallon and other celebrities who are spreading awareness for how children rely on school for food!
Unfortunately, children required to stay at home are living in neglectful and violent situations.
They are now defenseless to the perpetrators that are to be their protectors.
Young boys and girls are isolated in their homes, with no other adults to seek support, safety and salvation. They are silent and invisible victims of verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
‘The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. ‘ Johann Hari, author of the New York Times best-selling book “Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.”
Read that quote again and think about the implications of social distancing.
In my 15 years of counselling those struggling with mental health and addictions, I can tell you that connection outside of face-to-face interactions is rare.
Cell phones, internet connection, Zoom and Facetime are not resources that are accessible to those who suffer from addiction.
With community centers and libraries closed there is virtually no way to connect digitally.
Those struggling with addiction would come together in church basements, community centers and gather strength from groups and encouragement from sponsors.
These avenues have been closed and are no longer accessible.
Sufferers have been left to persevere through the pain, facing their inner demons alone.
Society’s focus on the virus and on the health-compromised is inadvertently putting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities in the most high-risk situations possible.
I agree with social distancing.
I comply with social distancing.
This is the only way to allow our health care system to survive.
However, I can’t help but see that there are unintentional consequences and creating another crisis.
Where is the church?
While our healthcare system fights with every ounce of energy to protect our medically vulnerable, can the church fight and serve those that are now exposed to the highest risks of isolation?
Unfortunately, many are too busy ensuring that their service is produced, that giving continues and that they are able to reach their congregants who have the means and ability to go online and sign in to a Zoom bible study.
Church, this is our time to look outside of our physical and mental walls.
There is a community around us that is suffering and with all our social systems busy, this is where we need to step in.
This is our time to truly reach our communities with the love and freedom of Jesus.
Here are 5 things that you can do for your community to support those who are most vulnerable during this time of social isolation.
1. Support your local food bank
Call your local food bank and ask how you can be most helpful. It might not be to donate food to the center as staffing to sort may be minimal. It may be targeting a low-income area of your city and dropping off family-friendly food.
2. Support your local crisis center
Contact your local center and see how you can support their work. It may be printing and distributing flyers about their services.
3. Share children’s helpline
Use your social media to bring awareness to the children’s help text and call centers. Or perhaps encourage people to become volunteers. There have been reports that help-lines are overwhelmed with the high volume of calls of both children and adults looking for support.
4. Show support to local agencies
Sending lunch to the local services and telling them that you are praying for them as a congregation builds trust and shows support.
5. Use communication tools
Offer the use of the same tools to communicate services to small grassroots and local initiatives that don’t have their own communication departments.
During this time of social distancing, the Church is in an incredible position to help the vulnerable and support those struggling in isolation.
Let this shift be more radical than going from physical walls to digital walls.
Let’s open our eyes and hearts to their needs… not just our own.