A Harvard medical professor and member of the Threatening Health Systems Project, Dr. Margaret Bourdeux, ended an interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilor in a most surprising way this week. She was summarizing ways U.S. citizens could help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But in addition to all the scientific information and advice she offered, she concluded by saying, “…let’s engage in an ‘outbreak of kindness’ as an antidote to the coronavirus outbreak.” An outbreak of kindness? What a wonderful suggestion added Keilor.
So, I began thinking. Here are some antidotes, or acts of kindness, we can do. We can make phone calls to the elderly and ask if they need anything. We can offer to babysit for parents who have to work a change in shift or work longer hours at home or away from a workplace where the virus may have strained staffing. We can pick up medications, library books, newspapers, etc. for those who can’t go out or are afraid to venture out because of age or compromising physical conditions. We can contribute time or items to food banks so the poor can get needed supplies. Certainly, we can pray with those who feel especially awkward about missing worship services.
I have also read many articles in newspapers about the extraordinary response in kindness shared with the victims of the tornadoes in Tennessee. People have given up their coveted time to do something for others. Do you feel the same way I do, that kindness is in the air? And it is coming from ordinary people. We are experiencing it despite the anxiety over the virus moving like a snake of collapsing dominoes. We are experiencing the spread of kindness despite the wrangling division, and visceral debates among national leaders. This spread of kindness should be respected as the only antidote that can help stop the virus from infecting the soul as well as the body.
This Lent is particularly rife with opportunities to replace my “coveted time” with some service to others. This is a form of fasting I spoke of last week. Why not review the list above of things you might be able to do and remain healthy or out of danger yourself? Anne Lamott has written in her very thoughtful book, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair, “To heal, it seems we have to stand in the middle of the horror, at the foot of the cross, and wait out another’s suffering where that person can see us.” Like Mary on Calvary, we can all do this. We can all be present where those in need can see us.
In quiet times of reflection, I ask for insight on specific actions I can take to help others in this time of crisis. I hope you join me in this prayer.
Dear readers, let us all unite – those I know and those who are our Anonymous Angels from other countries – let us pray for a resolution of this dystopian nightmare and respond however we are able in spreading an “outbreak of kindness.”