Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:32)
A man stands looking helpless in a supermarket aisle. He isn’t the first. He won’t be the last. But for 24 hours in these fast-moving days, Anthony Glynn became the face of Britain today - surrounded by empty shelves in Sainsbury’s Epsom, staring blankly at his shopping list. It wasn’t helped by the fact that he had forgotten his glasses! Mr Glynn is 79. And had a quadruple heart bypass in 2018. He was in Sainsbury’s to do some surprise shopping for his self-isolating neighbours in their 80s. Mr Glynn did manage to buy them some Yorkshire tea and biscuits, but there wasn’t much else. “People are only thinking of themselves” he lamented.
As Christians, the opposite should be true; our calling is to look out for others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). Likewise, compassion for the vulnerable is a key part of the DNA of God’s people. It would be hard to read the Bible and not see that! And yet at times like this it is easy for that to go out of the window. “But what about me…?”
As we think about how we respond as The Globe Church to the coronavirus pandemic, let’s do it with our eyes open. Our eyes open to the vulnerable. The truth is that for many elderly people, loneliness, social distancing and self-isolation was already an epidemic. Life is often already shrinking to their own four walls.
I have had the privilege of doing the weekly food shopping for David, a 90-year old gentleman from our previous church, now virtually blind, for a number of years now. It has come with unexpected rewards. I was particularly thrilled to get a Nectar Card coupon recently telling me that I was the number one buyer of scotch eggs in 2019 at the Denmark Hill Sainsbury’s. The pride! 😊. I won’t say that none of them were mine (!) but that triumph is largely down to David always getting 3 double packs a week!
He is hugely appreciative – he regularly says that just having someone to talk to makes a huge difference - and I confess I gain huge amounts from having a chat with an older Christian once the shopping is safely packed away too.
So what can we do at this time? There’s no rocket science here – just a few very simple, practical thoughts that can help us make a difference…
So firstly, use your phone for what it was originally made for! When you drift towards playing Candy Crush (showing my age?!) for the umpteenth time, phone an older person instead. Just hearing a voice will make a huge difference. Maybe someone in your family, maybe someone from a previous church who – perhaps even without you knowing – has been praying for you since childhood. Just talk to them. “I was just thinking of the time when…and thought I’d give you a ring to see how you are doing….” And listen. And listen some more. And talk. If they are a Christian, why not pray together?
If you’re feeling well, can you get some provisions for the elderly lady who lives in the flat below and who cannot – or is too worried to – go to the shops? To show her Jesus by buying a loaf of bread, some butter and some slices of ham and leaving them safely on her doorstep. Oh, and a packet of scotch eggs or three! It wasn’t the community door knocking we had in mind for the next few weeks but who knows what God will do with it?
Even in this day and age, who doesn’t love to receive a handwritten letter or card? Something that reminds you that people care – and that you can read over and over again.
A newspaper through the door for those whose daily exercise used to be walking to the shops to get their own? Puzzle books? Interflora online continues to deliver flowers safely in selected postcodes. ”Just to say I am thinking of you…”
And of course we should pray for the vulnerable. That they may know Christ in this, whether they already do or not.
You will have your own ideas, so I’m going to stop writing. Go and call someone. A few minutes chatting today will make it easier when you call again next week.
Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK are organising local volunteers to support the most vulnerable in our communities. They have organised groups in almost every part of London, why not check out what's going on in your community and how you can help?
Another option is to print the card below and post it around your neighbourhood. There are some guidelines concerning safety and safeguarding available on the Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK website which may be helpful.