When the pandemic of 2019 struck, there was an unbelievable amount of uncertainty. The government was instructing us to do one thing one day, and would change it completely the next day. Schools were instructing their people in yet a different way. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) began to develop guidelines on how to react to the spread of the virus.
At first, we were told the virus was absolutely no threat, then it wasn’t even real, and finally it was very harmful and deadly. We were told to wear masks and a vaccine would be developed quickly, though it did take some time. To the credit of the healthcare industry, a vaccine was developed more rapidly than for any other vaccine in history.
Nonetheless, inconsistent and conflicting instructions about COVID continued to dog us. Even the churches varied in their responses to include, COVID is not real, you don’t need to wear a mask or get the newly developed vaccine, to we are shutting down until further notice. Regarding the shutdowns for the church, it lasted many months. Businesses were closed, economies were badly hurt, and stimulus money was issued by the government, although it was barely enough to really help. We were told to follow the science, follow the politicians, and follow the education system. No one ever mentioned following our religious teachings.
What exactly are our religious teachings? In the gospel, Matthew 22:36–40, Jesus gives us the ultimate instruction on how to deal with most any situation. He says, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.” He also says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How does one do that in a pandemic? There are many examples. First, there is the decision to either follow the best instruction you can or not, and to do so with the health of others in mind. While we received confusing information from social media, the government, politicians, the CDC, etc., all you must do is look at the healthcare workers and first responders to see love your neighbor in action during the COVID pandemic.
There were countless news stories of health care workers who worked extra hours, who went into hospital wards filled with COVID patients, who risked their own health and the health of their families to treat the sick and dying. Many of them literally held hands with people who were dying because their families couldn’t be there. Some healthcare workers died due to the sacrifices they made, while others worked to perfect vaccines and treatment options for COVID patients.
My own family was badly hit by COVID. Our son became ill suddenly. He developed COVID pneumonia and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). He was placed on a ventilator and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine for life support, and he ultimately required a double lung transplant to save his life. Of course, this is a very personal experience with COVID.
During his treatment, love your neighbor became apparent again and again. Many church groups came forth offering not only their prayers and their best wishes, but also food and financial help, whatever aid they could give. The family support was amazing, too. Many healthcare workers commented about that during my son’s treatment. He was visited by family daily. These are just a few of many examples of love your neighbor in the finest way.
While the world disputed what to do, there were people who simply went ahead and did what they could; the people who love their neighbor. Though masks were uncomfortable, people were willing to wear them to protect themselves and others. These people may have feared needles and the risks of a brand-new vaccine, but still had the faith to receive it. They believed it would provide some measure of protection.
To me, it is only common sense to do whatever you can to protect yourself and others. The ultimate good deal in life is the one that protects you and others. To those of you who love your neighbor, keep it up. All of you have our best wishes and many blessings.
Charles and Barbara Bressler are married for 43 years, live in Lewisburg PA where they own and operate a music business, with Charles serving as Lay Leader and Barbara as organist at their church.