We are all walking through something together right now, aren’t we? The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing have lasted longer than we had hoped or imagined back in March 2020. My kids’ spring break grew from a week to months of “bonding time” at home. So … humans everywhere on the globe may be asking how to show love to others now—when you can’t really hug, shake hands, or show your smile through your mask. The worst-case scenario used to be a friend backing away from your coffee breath, but now we think about how we could actually risk someone’s health by getting too close. So, we wave, nod, or maybe even avoid people so we don’t have to feel awkward. But if there’s one thing about humanity I believe, it’s that we will move forward. We will adventure on to discover how to show love, even in a new normal.
Personally, I felt relief in staying home alone as much as possible during the first couple months of this pandemic. I have young kids who still lick their shoes and wipe their boogers sometimes, so I hunkered down with games and coffee and movies and stayed away from all people. I thought we could ride it out like we did during the wintry blizzards of my childhood in northeastern Pennsylvania. But as 2020 moved on, we started stepping out to the end of our driveway whenever there was a neighbor sighting because we were craving human contact.
I think humanity senses now more than ever that we each belong to a larger part. Somewhere within us we know we can’t live completely away from people for long stretches of time. We crave interactions. In fact, we were actually designed by God to be “one body.” Check out the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 12. This part from The Message version of the Bible is great:
God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful … 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 MSG
Connecting with one another is in our design, and our interactions give us a richer understanding of God. No wonder we’re feeling boredom, loneliness, and depression, and we’re easily offended, exhausted, and worried about things we’ve never stressed about before. We aren’t supposed to do life on our own. So let’s pause a minute. Take a big breath in and out. Seriously. It’s expected during a pandemic to have big feelings and new concerns. It’s okay to cope and grieve losses and feel loneliness. It’s okay to make mistakes, fail as you figure out a new groove, and have messy moments with people. We don’t have to “have it all together” on our own right now; we were made to live life all together. Reach out to a friend today to meet with coffee in a parking lot or go fishing a few feet apart at the lake.
The world tires of making all sorts of decisions about when to strap on the mask, where to find more hand sanitizer, who to invite, how to celebrate the birthdays, what to do when we wake up with a minor sore throat, and whether our neighbor is being rude or merely careful! Our hearts may wonder how to show love within that tension of building relationships while keeping people at a safe physical distance. Is it easier to keep people six feet away if we also distance our hearts? It has now become important for humanity to get creative about connecting. Now is a difficult time that calls for us to come together safely. We just have to decide what that looks like.
Start with your own heart. Before helping a neighbor down the street, you may need to figure out how to show love to yourself. Are your basic needs met? Are you getting enough sleep, water, nutrition, and peace of mind this month, this week, or today? Start small, start with your health, and start now. How are you really doing as you read this? Let one small step come to mind right now about improving your overall health. Chances are, if you reach out for help from someone you trust through a phone call, a masked driveway conversation, or a walk outside, it could be just the remedy you both need.
Throughout the month of June, a friend and I both admitted we needed to drink more water, so we jokingly started texting each other videos of ourselves chugging water throughout the week. It actually helped me to remember to drink water (and I realized I was not alone in forgetting my basic needs during this crazy time).
Something else important to remember this year is to communicate with those you care about. It’s helpful to remind people that they can be honest with you about their social distancing and mask-wearing comfort levels. Remind yourself that if someone holds a different view than you about when to mask or how close to stand, that’s always okay! We can connect with each other positively when we are confidently communicating what we are comfortable with and willing to remind friends. For example, “Oh I’m not hugging right now, but it sure is good to see you from six feet away!”
We can allow some of the messy or awkward moments because we’ve decided people are just that important to keep in our lives. Basic communication from the start about wearing a mask, not sharing meals, or only meeting on Zoom will help us keep people in our lives.
While I was in my car two days ago, I watched a woman fall to the ground. I had a mask and sanitizer sitting beside me, and I decided in the moment to absolutely go ask her if she needed help up off the concrete. I felt out of my comfort zone, and I am sure she did too, but we were both willing to touch sanitized hands when one of us needed help. I needed that moment to show me the priority people have in my life. It was for the same reason that I did not fly home to hug my grandpa when we thought he wouldn’t make it through the night. Sometimes we stay away from the ones we love most to keep them safe. Surely you’ve made some memories already in an attempt to show love even in a new normal. May we simply continue to find ways to reach each other’s hearts while giving each other safe distance.
Some Safe and Friendly Ideas to Connect:
1. Party! In 2020, you can party anywhere! You can party in your pajamas on a video call with friends across the country (or street). Right now, seeing humans on screens is slightly better than only ever bouncing ideas off your cat, right? We can stand six feet from our friend’s porch or set up distant chairs in the driveway. On a friend’s birthday, we can drive by with a giant sign or honk. The best time to get creative about celebrating with people in our daily lives is now! Just remember what the author of Hebrews wrote: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another … Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
2. Ask for help. There are non-physical ways to reach out when you need help or feel lonely. If you are someone who is more at risk of getting sick, call a friend from your work, LifeGroup, or neighborhood when you need a grocery item, curbside library book, or just some kind words. Maybe taking what feels like a big risk in reaching out will bring a few smiles.
3. Send a card. My grandma would love this one. So might yours.
4. Bike around your neighborhood. I’ve used this one when desperate. Yes, I’ve even shouted compliments about gardens and cats while wearing my bike helmet. Small moments of kindness make up our lives. If this one is just not for you, that’s okay. (Maybe you’ll catch me riding down your street one of these days, though.)
5. Smile. With your mask on. Yep, you can still show love even when your mouth is hidden. A word, laugh, or wave in the grocery store can bring just a bit of joy and remind us we are in this together.
6. Pray. We can turn worry and stress into conversation with God. … It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. … Philippians 4:7 MSG
7. Remain willing. If your first plans fail, stay willing to try plan B. Trust God to help you on this journey because He designed us to be together!
8. Invite. You can invite people to church with you at one of our Life.Church locations, where we’re social distancing and taking safety precautions. Or, you can watch Church Online together digitally, or have an outdoor socially distanced watch party on your front lawn!
Bottom line? We’ll get through this—together. We may show love in different ways this year, but that doesn’t make it any less loving. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s show some love today in some safe ways.