COVID-19 shut down many parts of our lives - but certainly not all parts. The needs of our friends and neighbors and our own needs to both be in community and to help one another will never shut down. Since the needs are still there - and we want to meet the needs safely - we have to be creative about how we serve one another during a pandemic. Thankfully, there are some great examples of ways people have maintained social distancing while extending care, comfort and justice to their neighbors.
As people of faith, we believe every difference-making movement begins in prayer. Prayer is definitely an accessible way for all of us to begin service. Through prayer, we open ourselves up to the presence of the Divine, become more aware of the needs around us, and begin to envision how we can be servants who come alongside those in need.
8 ways to serve during a pandemic:
Relief, aid and justice organizations still need money. If you are among the lucky whose bank account has been mostly unaffected by the pandemic, you can serve immediately by supplying funds towards causes and organizations.
The pandemic has not shut down natural disasters, and organizations like UMCOR are still in need of resourcing to meet the needs of those affected. And, of course, medical organizations are doubly challenged in meeting the health needs of the communities served during this time.
Run a fundraising or awareness campaign
You may not have the kind of funds in your bank account to make a difference. It may be time to build some awareness and community around your cause and raise some needed funds by inviting others into service, too.
Our friends at the General Commission on Religion & Race make it easy to share information, infographics and even personal challenges. When you’re ready to run your own fundraiser, Facebook makes it quite simple to set up your own campaign and spread invitations.
Send a meal
Perhaps you know someone locally who could use a hand up. Did you know you can send meals through businesses like DoorDash or Uber Eats? Sending a meal during this time is a double-dip of service: you offer a lift to the recipient while supporting a local business that is likely struggling. (Actually, a triple-dip as the driver gets paid, too.)
Maybe the person who needs the lift of a cooked meal is you.
This could be the perfect time to become a penpal. There are many who are vulnerable but still feel a want for connection and community. Your letter could be a big reminder that we’re still connected and that people care. Write to the elderly in your life. Write to military personnel. Write to the incarcerated.
If you’re looking for a match made just for you, check out the Snail Mail Social Club--an organization connecting hopeful correspondents.
Be a mentor
More than ever, young people and eager learners are looking for meaningful ways to connect with teachers and role models. Many mentoring programs now offer online means for connecting people. Your knowledge and presence (even virtual presence) can make a huge difference in someone else’s life. Crystal Caviness offered this glimpse of how mentoring affects both the mentored and the mentoring.
Share the good things
Remember how much we loved it when John Krasinski shared Some Good News? Take on the same role. You may not need to produce your own news show, but simply use the platforms available to you to share about the good stuff happening. Use this as an opportunity to fast from participating in the critiques and put-downs that regrettably dominate so much of our social media feeds.
Volunteer your services from a distance
Many United Methodist churches began protective mask-making programs. There is likely to be one near you.
VolunteerMatch is full of opportunities for socially-distanced service, as well.
Donate what you have
You’ve likely spent a little extra time at home this season--and by now are well aware of what items you use and those lying around your home that you don’t utilize. Charity organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill Industries could use your under-used items. Utilize this time to have a cleaning day and donate what you weed out to an organization you’d like to support.
For more ideas on how to be a change agent in your community, check out our Change the World topics page.
Ryan Dunn is the Minister of Online Engagement, Rethink Church, for United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email.