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The Inconvenience of Neighborliness

A legal scholar tested Jesus and asked simply, “Who is my neighbor?” 

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Luke 10:30-35.

The story of the good Samaritan is Jesus’s way of telling us to have mercy on and compassion for our fellow man.  Sometimes we must burden ourselves to protect and take care of even strangers among us or even those who we would not like in normal times.

My wife and I are struggling with the decision of sending our children back to school.  My wife has lung cancer. It puts her in the category of vulnerable people susceptible to bad cases of COVID-19.

A lot of people do not believe COVID-19 is spreading as badly as is claimed.  Some of know people who claim they or their friends got positive COVID-19 tests though they did not actually take the test.  Others believe hospitals are not overcrowded or masks are ineffective or most people are going to get mild or asymptomatic cases.

But everyone agrees that there are those, like my wife, who could wind up in the hospital or dead should the virus invade our homes.  Since this pandemic began in February, I have done all the grocery shopping in our home.  I run the errands.  I do five hours of radio a day, get the family fed between shows if we are not cooking, and run the masked gauntlet at grocery stores on the weekend. 

I do all that to keep my wife safe.  I wore masks when others laughed at me.  Friends told me I was overreacting.  They do not understand that even in the best case scenario of a conspiracy with made up data and an exaggerated pandemic that only affects the already medically fragile, my wife is medically fragile.

When all of us can send our kids to school, they will be surrounded with kids whose own parents think this is overblown and overstated.  Those families, to avoid burdening themselves for what they see as a fiction, will not take the steps others take to avoid the virus.

We want our kids to be with their friends and teachers.  Many of you do too.  But it requires us to trust each other.  Yes, like the good Samaritan, it will require some people to burden themselves in ways they find inconvenient, just so others can be safe.

Maybe we should keep our kids from school.  But someone still must grocery shop.  There is no COVID cure.  The virus will be around for a while.  All I can ask is that, for the sake of your parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors who are elderly or medically vulnerable that you dare inconvenience yourself not for your own sake and safety, but for them.

When school resumes, it will be a terrible psychological burden on the child who comes home with the virus and gives it to her grandmother or parent.  We can stop that from happening if those who think it is no big deal, still treat it as if it is one.  But I just am not sure people are as willing to be the good samaritan as they are the priest and Levite.

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