The already socially distancing

The already socially distancing

With the Coronavirus containment underway, several public health experts have recommended social distancing, a process to ensure that the infection does not spread further. Offices have responded by recommending that staff work from home where possible. Universities are moving their courses online. Sports events and other public gatherings have been postponed.

As people begin to go into their homes for longer periods of time, a social shift has been noted, as people discuss ways that they might see through their period of isolation.

And yet, for many people, this experience of isolation is nothing new. For people living with disability, illness, or those without work, the conditions that a wide slice of the population are still preparing for are things that they have become accustomed to.

Isolation is a social and geographical reality. It has a spiritual dimension. Popular biblical images for isolation include the wilderness (where Jesus is later tested).

Rev. Christopher Ridings is a retired Uniting Church minister. He lives in a Uniting home, where his dialysis means that he has had experiences of isolation. At points, this has included being unable to make church events and meetings.

“Summing up my ongoing experience of social isolation is like becoming a billabong which began as bends in a river until the river took a short cut to stream straight through leaving a billabong literally out of the loop,” Rev. Ridings said.

“Since this is Lent, I have committed myself to walk with (or stumble behind) Jesus as with gritted teeth he sets his face grimly towards Jerusalem, where they stone the prophets, and his disciples drop off the pace.

“I am called to treat everyone as if will be my last opportunity.”

Rev. Ridings provided some advice for those who are now facing the possibility of isolation with COVID-19 responses underway.

“My advice? Continue to love one another,” he said. “Mend any fences that you can. Leave a good spirit behind. This world needs good models.”

Caremongering: a solution to isolation

As COVID-19 social distancing takes place, a new initiative is providing a potential model for how the church should help the already isolated.

On social media, a number of Canadians have taken to offering help to those who will struggle to make it to the shops as people respond to the pandemic with panic buying. Playing off the concept of ‘scaremongering’, these Netizens have taken to ‘caremongering’. The trend has taken off in places including Ottawa, Halifax, and Annapolis County in Nova Scotia, with more than 30,000 people taking it up.

Facebook posts regarding the trend have two hashtags: #iso and #offer. #iso posts are people ‘in search of’ help. People offering help post use the tag #offer.

Paul Viennau, joined the caremongering group in Halifax. Living with a disability for 29 years, Mr Viennau has a compromised immune system. He said that he received help when he was running short of hand sanitiser.

“I live on hand sanitiser in normal circumstances. I started to worry about running out three days ago,” he said.

The group came through in delivering, something that he said gave him a “fighting chance” against the virus.

Rhia Rave Fae told the BBC that the group had been, “a safe haven to restore my faith in humanity.”

“It’s easy to feel alone and powerless,” she said.

“Especially if you’re isolated. Being able to offer people emotional support, share information, and even just swap ideas of how to pass the time has been life-changing.”

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