Almost every one across our nation has been effected by the Covid-19 virus crisis. Businesses have shut down, many have lost their jobs. We are required to practice "social distancing" to help stop the spread of the virus. Most school systems have gone to home-based learning and many will not return until next Fall. This truly is a time when anxiety and stress levels are high. Unfortunately there is another type of crisis that many families will face during this time when so many are staying home: it is the crisis of family violence...
My son is the executive director of Youth and Family Service of El Reno (Oklahoma) and while visiting with him the other day he said, "I hate it that the schools are closed, the incidents of child abuse is certain to increase." When I asked him what he meant he went on to explain that many children will now have to "stay home" with: parents who are drinking or doing drugs, parents who have lost their jobs and are financially stressed, parents who do not get along and now have more time to argue and fight. The end result, he says, is that many children will bear blunt of this stress.
In light of this, I would like to share a verse that recently came to my attention: Paul, in Ephesians 4:32, says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." This verse lifts up three exhortations that I think we should consider during this extremely stressful time:
1. Be Kind to one another. I think this is a "proactive" exhortation. It is something that we need to take the lead in. It involves our attitudes towards others. It involves the tone of our communication with others. It involves behaviors and the way we act towards others.
A couple of days ago I was in Quick Trip to get a cup of coffee and when I went to check out the clerk said, "Already paid for." When I asked what he meant he said, "That gentleman over there paid for your coffee." Immediately I thought it must be a member of my church or a friend from my neighborhood but as I looked I realized, "I've never seen this guy before in my life." So I asked, "Did you pay for my coffee?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Thank you but why did you do that?" He replied, "I just wanted you to have a blessed day.
Now is the time for us to help others have a blessed day. We can work towards this as we strive to be kind to one another.
2. Be Compassionate. Compassion, I think, involves both a perspective and a feeling. The perspective is that of trying to understand what another person is experiencing or dealing with. What is it like to have a loved one become very, very sick, with their prognosis uncertain? What is it like to go to work one day and be told that this will be your last day, at least until normal business operations are restored? What is it like to be the leader of a business who is having to make hundreds of decisions, most of which will affect the lives of others in some way? In each of these instances I can tell you that anxiety and stress are heightened. It is time for us to practice compassion.
Specifically, during this time of Covid-19 crisis, I would encourage us to have compassion towards our elected officials. They are presently engaging in an incredible "balancing act." They are forced to make decisions that ensure both public safety and community stability. In a rapidly changing environment the weight of these decision is incredible. Their decision making, in hind-sight, will not be perfect, but try to have a little compassion. I personally would not want to walk in their shoes.
3. Be Forgiving. The truth is, due to the stress we are all under, times of "ugliness" are going to appear. People are going to say things they don't really mean. People are going to make poor decisions. People are going to behave in ways for which they will later be sorry. Now is the time for us to practice forgiveness.
The Corona Virus will one day pass. Hopefully soon our lives will return to a normal schedule. But the effects of how we treat each other and respond to each other during this time of crisis will go on for some time. So I would encourage us all to: continue in prayer, continue in faith, and continue to be kind to one another.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.