I fear my faith has overtaken my journalistic sense this month. If ye are of little faith, then please pardon the fact that what follows is more sermon than editorial.
The December edition features a public service announcement created by the excellent message crafters at Creative Energy on behalf of the RegionAHEAD organization.
You may have seen the heart-rending videos RegionAHEAD has produced featuring (very real) healthcare providers who are clearly exhausted and distraught from dealing with the COVID crisis on a daily basis. They implore everyone to do what they can to stop the spread of the virus. If you haven’t seen these videos, you can find them on youtube. In fact, go ahead. This column will be here when you get back. You’ll need to dry your eyes before picking this column back up, I suspect, but please do come back.
The most cynical will likely dismiss this message from healthcare providers as the media and the hospitals trying to scare you into giving up your God-given freedoms. I, on the other hand, believe the vast majority of those who chose a career that puts them in direct contact with COVID patients daily – nurses, techs, first responders – did so because they received a very real call to help the suffering. And, I believe that’s why they are reaching out to us now.
For months, patients with COVID have been walking into our region’s hospitals. Our healthcare workers have known that this is an incredibly virulent disease, and they have taken extraordinary steps to protect themselves and each other. They have no choice. They must still be there for the rest of us.
So, while we may or may not have worn a mask when we went to the store, they worked extra hours. People whose job is to shoot x-rays spent extra hours disinfecting rooms because there are only so many custodians. And we need to be protected.
While we may or may not have gone to church, or to visit our relatives, or to ball games, they soldiered on, eschewing such gatherings and wearing masks until their faces bore marks.
And when a patient arrived telling them that the virus wasn’t real…
And when a patient told them the virus was no worse than a cold…
And when a patient told them the death counts were faked…
And when a patient told them that they were profiteering off fear…
…they did everything they could to heal the patient.
Now, with testing down but deaths rising and positivity rates approaching one test in four (as of this writing), many in the community have started noticing what these healthcare heroes have been doing. And some of us have even started thanking them. That’s good. After months of dealing with patients who appear as bent on destroying morale as they are on denying their own mortality, it’s good that these providers hear from those of us who recognize their sacrifice.
But here’s the thing. Our saying thank you doesn’t solve their problem. Telling providers that they’re in our thoughts and prayers doesn’t solve their problem (especially if, truth be told, some of us don’t actually think about or pray for them very much). Buying a big bar-b-que lunch for all the phlebotomists or all the ICU nurses or all the transporters who move the bodies doesn’t solve their problem. Even businesses offering discounts to healthcare heroes doesn’t solve their problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely in favor of, and fully support every one of those things. They help.
But, if you want to do something to be truly useful to these heroic souls, then put yourself into your prayers with them. Take the personal responsibility and pray for the strength to put aside whatever may have kept you from wearing the mask.
Pray for the understanding that people with diabetes and leukemia and other diseases that increase their risk of being killed by the virus have to buy groceries too, and that yes, God would want you to protect them when you go to the store. Just because you may only have a 1-2 percent chance of dying from COVID doesn’t mean everybody you meet is equally strong. Pray that God gives you the grace to protect the weak, even when you don’t know who or where they are.
Pray that God grants you the wisdom from this day forward to do what it takes to never get the virus – and to never pass it along.
Pray for the strength to make the small sacrifices that will lead us out of this crisis sooner. And pray for the courage to stand up to those, even among your loved ones, who will make you a lightning rod for their criticism.
I meditated last night on Matthew 22:36-40. I believe God gave us these masks to wear not just to save lives, but as a sign we love our neighbors and ourselves, and that we love God enough to protect each other as His creation.
I pray you will say “amen.”