We have intentionally cultivated relationships with our neighbors over the years, so there is already trust built in the neighborhood. Such trust defeats the hoarding, self-protective mentality that fear creates. With that foundation of trust, we have been able to specifically reach out to neighbors and check in on their needs during this time of social distancing around COVID-19. We personally went to each older neighbor and offered to pick up items they needed at the store, so they could limit their own exposure.
In the past few weeks we have taken meals to neighbors, helped one neighbor through a stomach illness, and purchased groceries for another. Also, an elderly widow wants us to be able to check in on her, so she has entrusted us with the key to her home and the alarm code. God is using the foundation of trust that already exists in our neighborhood, through intentional investment of relationship building, along with our willingness and availability.
If you don’t already know your neighbors, this is a great time to start meeting those right on your block or the floor of your apartment building. Even just a friendly wave or hello can open the door to more communication (from a safe distance of course)!
Before the current COVID-19 crisis, we were already involved in “asset mapping” in our community. This is the practice of sharing assets in the neighborhood—perhaps everyone doesn’t need their own lawnmower or other household tools. We can cultivate connection and generosity by sharing what we have among neighbors, in good times and in times of hardship.
In Navigators Neighbors we have been talking about laying the relational groundwork, weaving a fabric of love and care in the neighborhood, so that things like asset mapping can actually happen. If we have been faithful to do this relational work in times of peace, it pays huge dividends in times of difficulty.
In our immediate situation, asset mapping takes a daily, pragmatic approach. We have backyard chickens who produce plenty of eggs, so neighbors who need eggs can have some of ours, especially when trips to the store are limited (or the stores are out of eggs). Neighbors who are used to buying in bulk and have extra toilet paper can share with those who didn’t happen to buy a big package before the current scarcity. As we model a spirit of authenticity in generosity and sharing, this attitude can spread to those around us.
While practicing safe physical distancing, we are also intentional about getting out of our house and into our front yard and walking around the neighborhood daily. This sends the message that we are available to talk (even at a safe distance) and shows our presence with our neighbors. Just smiling when we see people can help all of us during a period of isolation.
Beyond the physical and emotional care for your neighbors, this is a time of prayer and spiritual engagement. You can show love for your neighbors by praying for them—specific prayers for those you know well, and also more general prayers for people in homes you walk by every day.
Pray that this will be a time of healing and rediscovery for relationships that have grown used to physical distance and are now forced together. Pray that parents and kids rediscover what it means to be with each other, learn together, and enjoy each other. For many of us, the busyness of normal life is on pause, so let’s use this time of physical distancing to be fully present to God and one another!