How You Can Help the Poor in the Midst of the Pandemic

Ideas for making an impact in the lives of vulnerable people

How are you faring in this global pandemic? It’s a tough time for sure. But spare a thought for those who have less capacity to handle the crisis. (And I don’t mean celebrities stuck at home with nothing exciting to post on Instagram.)

Experts are recommending that people like you and me stay home, avoid large crowds, stock up on food, and contact a friendly doctor if we are sick.

Also, testing, testing, testing! is supposedly one of the most important answers to stopping this pandemic. (Imagine being able to get your hands on an actual coronavirus test. It’d be like winning the lottery … or being a Kardashian).

But there’s an even bigger problem with all this great advice: A whole lot of folks simply can’t afford to follow it.

In Luke 8, Jesus is approached by a man of power and privilege—a church leader—who begs Jesus to come and heal his daughter who is dying. Because of his compassion for everyone, Jesus agrees to go.

But along the way, Jesus senses that a poor woman with a bleeding disease, too scared to even approach him directly, has reached out and touched the corner of his garment.

This is God’s Preferential Option (bias) for the poor in action right here. Check it out…

Jesus, immediately prioritizes this poor lady. He stops and looks for her, even though his disciples find his delay ridiculous and inappropriate. Jesus takes the time engage with her and addresses her needs before anything else.

Only after doing that, does he attend to the needs of the privileged man, who might have been a wee bit upset by this point.

So, let’s consider the needs of the poor first and foremost (because no one else does)—and it’s what Jesus would definitely do. Take a moment to review the many ways the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society are affected by this pandemic:

1. Most low-income jobs don’t offer paid sick days. Whether you’re a day laborer or just in a delivery job at Amazon, hardly any of these roles give you paid time off for sickness or quarantine. You get sick, you’re in trouble.

2. Most low-income jobs mostly can’t be done remotely. Think of the factory workers, street sweepers, nannies, hamburger flippers, waitresses and street-food vendors—they can’t just pack their livelihood up in a laptop bag and work from their home office.

3. Low-income people are disproportionately much more likely to be uninsured or underinsured for medical care—unless they live in a Western country that is not the United States. Then they’re probably fine.

4. Stocking up the pantry is tough. It can be an impossible financial hurdle for someone who lives from pay check to pay check. They can’t hoard toilet paper—but they also can’t get the essentials.

5. They can’t get a coronavirus test. In many places only celebrities and the rich have been able to access testing. This is why throughout Asia and Africa, coronavirus is seen as a foreigners disease because only wealthy foreigners are getting tested.

6. In many countries, the poor may have no clean or running water to wash their hands and stay clean enough to avoid infection.

7. They certainly can’t afford a bottle of hand sanitizer (many of the children we work with can’t even afford soap).

8. Online schooling is an impossibility. They can’t afford a Wi-Fi connection and they certainly don’t have a laptop to complete that Algebra homework.

9. The poor are more affected by misinformation as they are often less educated and less likely to speak English. Rumors and straight-up lies are spreading like wildfire amongst marginalized communities.

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10. Many of the poor live in countries that have a lack of decent medical care—for example, here in Cambodia there are no ventilators in the entire nation.

11. By necessity, they live in households with heaps of uncles, aunties, grandmas and cousins—lots more people and more cramped conditions—placing them at greater risk of exposure to the virus.

12. These cramped conditions lead to a greater likelihood of domestic violence and abuse because of the extra stress and lack of resources.

13. With schools around the world cancelled, millions more children are more reliant on food at home that was previously provided by the school cafeteria or lunch program.

14. When people are desperate for money, traffickers are recruiting. Rather than suspending activities, the sex trade continues to function, even flourish.

15. Key services such a homeless drop-in centers have been closed, making those who access these services much more vulnerable (not to mention irritable).

Jesus invites us to pause, and consider the needs of the most vulnerable—not only in our own nations, but across the world. Yes, the crowd is pressing in and the needs are great (Luke 8:45), but stop and look around and ask how you could serve others. This is your big chance.

Honestly, this right here is the key to overcoming anxiety and fear. You won’t be able to help everyone, but you can certainly help someone. But you’ve got to take the focus off yourself.

Take a moment now to decide that you will pick one of these action points listed below as a challenge to complete in the next 48 hours. Do it with your kids if possible.

Stop. Breathe. And ask God to open your eyes to someone marginalized or struggling in your own community. Ask God how you could encourage or help them today.

So, here are a few ideas to get you started. The first seven are great for kids stuck at home.

1. Encourage your kids to express gratitude by making a cute thank you card for frontline workers such as garbage collectors in your community—they are often the lowest paid members of society and yet their work is so crucial.

2. Shane Claiborne has been mobilizing people to sneak out at night and write upbeat chalk messages on the ground to encourage neighbors and people walking by (using the hashtag #QuarantineMission). Your kids will love the subversive nature of this one.

3. Help your kids to bake some yummy cookies or cupcakes and put a plate of individually wrapped goodies next to your front door with a message thanking delivery people and encouraging them to help themselves.

4. Help spread good information on social media for marginalized communities. Non-English speaking communities and the poor are drowning under a barrage of misinformation. My organization, Alongsiders International, is about to release an animated learning video for kids in several languages (Khmer, Hindi, Rwandan, Indonesian, Nepalese) with basic information to help them protect themselves from the virus. Your kids can watch it on YoutTube too once it comes out.

5. Help your kids to put together a Pandemic Pack for someone homeless—a warm blanket, hand sanitizer, a clean pair of socks and some non-perishable food. You can also include gift vouchers for some local small businesses and support them at the same time.

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6. Call up your local hospital and ask if they’d be willing to accept a delivery of a few pizzas as a small token of your appreciation for the nurses and cleaners (This helps out your local pizzeria, too, and your kids can choose the toppings.).

7. Support your local food bank. Food banks are welcoming donations of food items. You can check on your local food bank’s website or social media page to find out which items they are most in need of then help your kids to go through the pantry. You should be able to drop off food items with minimal social contact. If you are under self-isolation, you can make a financial donation to your local food bank.

8. Check on your neighbors. Call or text those who might need assistance (especially elderly folks) to make sure they’re doing okay. Ask if there is anything that they need (be it a bottle of hand sanitizer or a cup of flour). If you have what they’re looking for, offer to leave it outside their front door so that they can pick it up without coming in direct contact with you.

9. Share your Netflix password with a solo mother whose kids are all off school and at home (if she doesn’t already have Netflix). You might just save her sanity. Thanks Netflix. I’m sure you don’t mind.

10. Join a Facebook Support Group for the virus. Connecting online during this crisis is simply the safest and easiest way to figure out what needs are in the community. Put yourself out there and join hands with others (metaphorically speaking of course).

11. Offer to shop for the elderly. I love this letterbox drop some local students carried out in New Zealand to see if their elderly neighbors needed any assistance. Then buy from local vendors and small businesses to help keep them afloat.

12. Support the ongoing work of Non-Profits. Give generously to groups that continue to support and work with the poor. We are not able to hold fundraisings events in these months and many of us are hurting BIG TIME. Go on, support my work with Alongsiders through the Coronavirus Relief Fund here. We’re helping folks here in Cambodia and a bunch of other places.

13. If you’re sitting at home bored, take some time to write to your local politician and lobby them to provide more aid to poorer countries. This is the best time to remind them that our national interests do NOT end at our borders.

14. Give your life blood. The Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage thanks to mass donor cancellations during the outbreak. There’s also a concern that as the number of sick people increases, the fewer eligible donors will be able to give. So roll up your sleeve …

15. Become a telephone volunteer. A number of charities are looking for volunteers to make phone calls to vulnerable clients. Now is the time to grab that phone and dial.

Finally pray for the poor and marginalized in other countries. They need our prayers too, and God is using this virus to shatter the illusion of our independence from one another.

I hope this list helps you rise above the situation. This is our chance to show the world we follow Jesus.

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This article originally appeared on CraigGreenfield.com and is reposted here by permission.