If you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention over the last month, you know that everything is changing. The COVID-19 crisis is one none of us could avoid if we tried. Schools are canceled. Restaurants and other businesses are closed or operating very differently, and most of America is learning to work from home amidst a crisis. Then there are the essential workers and first responders going to work every day in an environment that feels surreal, surrounded by masks, protective gear and social distancing. 

The temptation to curl up under some blankets and zone out to Netflix feels all too real. Sometimes, it might even be helpful. At some point though, we all have to learn how to function amidst the crisis. We need a way to stay sane. For those of us who follow Jesus, the call is even a bit higher. The call to love and serve our neighbors remains amidst chaos and crisis. Jesus spent a good deal of his ministry reminding us of the importance of service and he didn’t include many caveats. In fact, the call to serve during a crisis carries even more weight. So, we have to get creative. How do we serve and stay sane when the world is falling apart?

Support local businesses

 To some degree, supporting local businesses is easy. Ordering takeout from your local restaurants isn’t all that much of a sacrifice, but can you take it a step further? Definitely order the takeout, but also take a look at your budget and, if you can afford to, keep paying for those memberships and subscriptions you might not be able to use during this time.

My husband and I recently considered putting a hold on our YMCA membership. After all, we aren’t headed to the gym to work out anytime soon. After searching their website, we discovered that our YMCA dues were being used to continue paying staff for a few extra weeks and to provide low-cost childcare for essential employees. Our membership fees are in our budget already. Sure, we could use the extra each month for something else, but we are incredibly fortunate to continue receiving incomes during this time and we can afford to pay it forward.

Get creative and continue to support the businesses around you. We took our dog to get groomed two weeks ago.  Again, it’s part of our budget and a friend owns the shop and needs the business. Buy gift cards to your favorite local coffee shops and entertainment spots and mail them to a friend or family member with a promise for a post-quarantine outing. 

Continue to give generously

The world feels a bit shaky and it’s certainly tempting to cut any unnecessary spending right now. For some, with furlough and layoffs, it might be a necessity. If you’re fortunate enough to still have an income during this time, continue to give generously to non-profits and your church. Churches will inevitably suffer a great loss of funds each week with the shift to virtual services. During this time, we want local ministries and churches to be well-equipped to serve and minister in our community. Let’s keep them funded to provide the help our communities need.

Check in on your community

 Quarantine and social-distancing create isolation and can exacerbate already existing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Stat news reports on a study done in the SARS epidemic saying “Even three years later, quarantine was associated with post-traumatic stress symptoms, which were, again, more severe in health care workers.” 

Whether it’s a drive-by greeting to the grandparents, a chat with neighbors across the street or FaceTime with your friends, everyone needs a sense of connection during this time. Get creative. Mail a handwritten letter. Schedule weekly zoom happy hours. Do whatever it takes to check in on those you love. 

Celebrate those around you

 There are people in your circle who had big plans this spring and summer. Whether it’s the neighbor whose graduation plans are uncertain, the friend whose wedding got postponed or the cousin whose baby showers were all canceled, people are experiencing a loss. More now than ever, they need space to grieve expectations and they need to be celebrated.

Send the wedding gift, send something from Amazon off the baby registry, mail a check for the college grad. Acknowledge that you see them and you celebrate them. Think of creative ways to support your people. Set up a drop and go meal train. Host a virtual party. Write an “I owe you” for a post-quarantine celebration. When we finally get out of this mess, show up for them! 

Make the most of your outings

When you finally do have to make the grocery run or grab toilet paper, offer to pick something up for those in your circle. Know a high-risk friend or family member? Ask for their list and pick it up while you’re already shopping. Call the single parents in your life and do their shopping so they can keep their kiddos home. 

Planning to mow your lawn this week? Offer to take care of the neighbors too. See a need, meet a need. Water a neighbor’s flowers. Offer to walk the neighbor’s dog with yours. Making a dump trip? Take a friend’s trash too. We have a unique opportunity to be good neighbors during this time. 

Be Gentle

Everyone is coping with this crisis differently. While some of us are going nuts and trying not to over-function, others are having a hard time getting out of bed. Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s remember that there is no perfect way to survive a crisis. Let’s practice generous assumptions about others and their motivations. We’re all just walking through it together.

Staying safe during this pandemic doesn’t have to make us selfish. Let’s be people who look for opportunities to serve. Let’s be the helpers.