Love Your Neighbor as Yourself – Our Interconnected World in the Time of Pandemic

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself – Our Interconnected World in the Time of Pandemic March 23, 2020

Love your neighbor as yourself. – Leviticus 19:18

Loving your Neighbor by Social Distancing

We’re living through interesting times. There’s much fear, uncertainty, and anxiety – concerns over health, our own and that of others, and the economy.

Right now, on this day during this period, we are forced to love our neighbors as ourselves by staying away from our neighbors so as to not risk spreading the virus. Love means sacrificing our routine and certain comforts to flatten the curve and slow the rate of infections.

The truth of interconnectedness is that we only truly thrive in relation to how those around are doing. Isolation and separateness is something of an illusion.

Now is a time to practice social distancing, but also, and equally important, a time to practice patience, forgiveness, solidarity, compassion, and love.

How a Virus Demonstrates Humanity’s Interconnectedness

The past century has seen the world grow smaller. As globalism became a reality in manufacturing, travel, fiscal markets, and business, the threads of connection extended and entwined as never before, drawing nations and peoples closer to one another.

The interconnectedness of the human family has been made even more vividly evident in today’s Covid-19 crisis.

It took less than 3 months for the virus to travel along our well established commerce, tourism, and shipping routes. Once established in the U.S., the virus spread to all 50 states within a couple of weeks. Our web of connections provide many practical benefits, but now we’re being made aware of some of the drawbacks, too.

Our smaller world not only enables speedy travel of people and goods, but also of information. The world received daily reports from the situation in Wuhan China. Health experts and officials were able to exchange information and advice instantaneously via the internet.

Unfortunately, globalism has also led to the outsourcing of the manufacturing of countless goods and products – including medical supplies and pharmaceuticals – personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, antiviral medications, and even albuterol, the common asthma drug. As the virus infects thousands, and perhaps more, here in the U.S., we will certainly be prompted to revisit the wisdom of such global production and supply chains.

First Concerns

The complexity of any crisis offers many parts and pieces to analysis and many things to worry about. Obviously, our primary concern should be people’s health and well being. But again, in our deeply interconnected world, our health and well being is intrinsically linked to that of our neighbors’ health and well being. And in our globalized community, who is our neighbor includes pretty much everyone.

Our current situation brings new light to the commandment of loving our neighbor as ourself. We begin to realize that what happens to our neighbors in China, or Canada, or Italy, or New York, or closer to home, directly and indirectly affects us.  When thousands fall ill from a new virus continents away, it need be our concern, because there are few strangers in the global community, and even those we are commanded to love.

Further still, in a globalized world, even strangers can affect our lives and well being. This is not to deny the responsibilities we share toward those immediate to us – our friends and family, those nearest us are rightfully our first concern. But it is important to recognize that our circles of concern and caring should extend far and wide – more so than most realize.

Stopping the virus in one place, means slowing its progression or even stopping it in other places. Finding a cure or effective treatment in one nation, means finding the same for all.

While we are wisely called to practice social distancing, nations and individuals must resist the urge to lessen our compassion, concern, cooperation, and aid.

Other Important Concerns

Covid-19 is certainly a health threat, but the economic effects aren’t minor.  Human well being also includes concerns of employment, income, food, shelter, and so on. Job losses, long term unemployment, business closings – these things are not minor concerns.

Accurate information and estimates concerning the timing and exact effects of the economic downturn caused by Covid-19 remain to be seen.

Perspective & Hope

I appreciate that many folks are feeling anxious, sad, and worried. And there is certainly reason for concern.

The photo at the top of this post could be almost any European city near the end of the Second World War. We can, in part, address the fear and gloom many of us are feeling by offering a little perspective.

Not all that long ago, the world fought a six year global war (1939-1945) that left 200 million people dead, most of Europe a pile of ruble, much of Asia a disaster, millions homeless, economies in tatters, a Holocaust …

But humanity survived, we rebuilt, and life eventually returned to normal.

Saying this, it is not my intention to say that we should all just feel better or that our worry is unjustified. We’re worried about kids, our parents, our friends, our jobs, our economy … and rightfully so.

Every life is precious. The loss of any life is tragic. And we certainly have reasons to be concerned.

But we’ll get through this.

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