Loving our Neighbor as Ourselves During a Pandemic: Stop Stigma

Loving our Neighbor as Ourselves During a Pandemic: Stop Stigma

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Are you feeling scared, sad, disappointed, concerned you may become ill with COVID-19?  Are you watching the news or scouring websites to find out how many new cases have been identified near where you live? Do you look critically at someone who coughs when you are in line, even at the social distance of 6 feet?  

Living with so much uncertainty leaves us feeling vulnerable.  Our natural response is to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  Often our human nature leads us to look for someone to blame, for someone or somewhere to direct our anger. In this moment the focus of anxiety and concern has stigmatized people of Asian descent, travelers, emergency responders and healthcare professionals as those who are at greater risk of spreading COVID-19. Even people who have tested positive for the virus, been under quarantine and released are experiencing stigma, rejection and anger from those who are fearful.  
 
Recently it broke my heart to hear that someone’s coworkers became angry, blamed the person who became ill, and sent angry texts and emails to a person who is sick and in isolation with the virus. Many people who become sick do not have symptoms before they suddenly feel very ill. Even doing our best to maintain social distancing, hand hygiene and covering our cough, we may inadvertently spread the virus. Surely this is not intentional behavior. Imagine being very ill, weak, coughing, unable to take a good deep breath. Your physical and mental reserves are depleted. Being assaulted with the anger of those you called friends, coworkers and acquaintances is more than you can bear.  
 
This is the time to practice the most basic foundation of our faith, to love and care for one another. Offer to deliver a meal, groceries, pick up a prescription if you are able, keeping social distancing. Send a get well note, text or email. Pray for the grace, and love of God, to comfort and allow rest and recovery. 

Speak out against negativity and fear. Realize that with community transmission, anyone may come in contact with the virus, so be cautious, but keep fear in perspective. Practice self-care and let love and kindness prevail, and we will all be better off as a society.
 
Illustration by John Hain

Author

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Deborah Ringen

Deborah Ringen is Transitional Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC.

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