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March 13, 2020

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When the streets empty out, where are our communities?
The President has declared a National Emergency over the pandemic spread of the coronavirus - via The New York Times. At last they doubled down on testing and giving states access to additional federal funding.  The House and Senate look poised to pass another package providing emergency leave, nutrition aid and unemployment insurance - from Politico.

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2

I want to talk about community for a little bit and what it means to love our neighbor.

It means providing food and shelter to those without.  It means holding space and compassion for everyone, regardless of circumstance. It often means wading in the discomfort of life, the messiness of existence, and saying, “I’m here with you.” What it doesn’t often mean is staying by yourself. 

In times of trial, what do we turn to but community for solace, comfort, and companionship. But right now, on the precipice of spreading illness, loving your neighbor means staying at least six feet away from them. It means not going out to events, it means canceling group gatherings. It means, especially if you’re sick, staying nestled in your home. But as we continue this isolation and social distancing, we need to be incredibly intentional about creative community-building. The Washington Post and Vox (I’m sure along with many others) offer excellent articles examining what it means to make community, and what duty of care we have to our fellow humans, in this new space that has sprung up so quickly.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky suggested on the Facebook page of his Los Angeles congregation, B’nai David-Judea, “The very last thing we need right now is a mindset of mutual distancing. We actually need to be thinking in the exact opposite way. Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a thought as to how we might help that other, should the need arise.”

He concluded by saying: “Let’s stay safe. And let’s draw one another closer in a way that we’ve never done before.”

Our actions tonight are focused locally – reach out to your community. For me, at least, focusing some of the anxiety and energy of the world's chaos into action helps. 

Some quick examples include:

  • in your faith community, organizing grocery delivery/drop off to anyone who needs it
  • creating phone trees to call isolated folks
  • setting up some videoconferences throughout the day to talk about other fun random things and take our minds off of virus talk for a moment, as a friend of mine is doing. 
The other action is focused on Congress – let's make sure they know people are attentively watching how they respond, and that swift, broad, and decisive action is needed. Here’s a link to two ways to urge your member of Congress to vote for the House coronavirus bill NOW – it protects the people most in need and so protects all of us. Immediate paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, nutrition aid, more Medicaid funds for states, free testing and treatment, and protections for health care workers and other workers are essential. The House bill is a necessary start.
The Trough 
by Judy Brown

There is a trough in waves,
a low spot
where horizon disappears
and only sky
and water
are our company.
And there we lose our way
we rest, knowing the wave will bring us
to its crest again.
There we may drown
if we let fear
hold us in its grip and shake us
side to side,
and leave us flailing, torn, disoriented.
But if we rest there
in the trough,
in silence,
being in the low part of the wave,
keeping our energy and
noticing the shape of things,
the flow,
then time alone
will bring us to another
where we can see
horizon, see land again,
regain our sense
of where
we are,
and where we need to swim.
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