We live in a relatively small town in Southern Ontario, Canada. It gets cold here, but we never experience anything like the freezing temperatures and deep blowing snows of Northern Ontario or Quebec, or of the prairie provinces. I wish I could say that we were a friendly town, and I suppose you can find pockets of people who are very friendly; however, in general, I don’t find that this town is not overly friendly or overly anxious to lend a helping hand.
Twenty years ago when we first moved to this town, it was dying. Three of the major industries that had kept the townspeople employed had closed their doors, and it was, overall, a depressing place to live. That all changed recently. Retirees from Toronto and other major Ontario centres began to realize that housing was actually affordable here. They began to sell their million-dollar homes in the big cities and are now flocking to retire in our little town. This has resulted in a huge retirement community.
Oh, we have our new younger families as well. The local transit train is extending its line to our region, meaning that people will now be able to live in our town where the cost of living is still reasonable, and commute into the large urban areas where the jobs can be found. The schools are crowded with children of commuter parents.
As a result of all this, new homes are being built everywhere, and the town now covers significant more area than it did when we moved here.
Of course, we have spent much of the past two years under lockdown, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, and at the time this was written, the Omicron variant continued to ravage our hospitals, nursing homes, schools, our communities. Needless to say, we don’t like Omicron very much…
As this was being written, fierce winter weather was also dumping two feet of snow in a single day with biting winds whipping the falling white stuff into blizzard-like conditions. In fact, they are even calling this the “blizzard of the decade”. As we were out trying to shovel some of the storm off of our driveway and our sidewalks, we could see our elderly neighbours across the road trying to do the same. They didn’t try for long, however. The snow was just too heavy and there was just too much of it. We fully intended to go over and help them shovel when we finished our drive. We also wanted to shovel the drive of the vacant house next door where an elderly lady who recently passed away had lived. Being absolutely exhausted from our own driveway, however, we decided to rest up a bit before again braving the snow.
With everything that is going on right now, it could be said that fear is one of the leading emotions we encounter in our town. The elderly have much more reason to fear COVID and all of its variants than others, and we find they are often isolating themselves in order to stay safe. The snow and cold are other isolating factors as well for our retirees. They don’t dare go out for fear of falling on the ice, and their bones just don’t tolerate the piercing cold like they once did.
The situation in our town may have its unique features, but the problems faced right now by the elderly are far from unique. Across the world the elderly are suffering and dying from COVID. They are shut in, isolated, often in need of basic goods. COVID doesn’t seem to be going away (and neither does this winter cold!), so wherein lies the solution?
After going inside the house to rest up from our shovelling adventure, my wife and I were delighted to see another neighbour begin to clean our the driveway of the elderly neighbours across the road with his four-wheeler and snow scoop. Herein lies the solution! Those of us who can do things need to step forward and help those who are isolated and hurting and in need of basic goods! Initially in the pandemic, I felt there was a lot of brotherly love being shown. People were stepping up everywhere to be God’s hands and feet. But we’ve all grown tired of it all, and I feel our vulnerable people are once again isolated and alone. It is time for us to step up again.
I pray that by the time this is being published, COVID will be history. It may not be; but even if it is, COVID isn’t the only thing that isolates the elderly and the sick. No matter what the circumstances, we, as the people of God, have a responsibility. We need to be God’s hands and feet on earth, bringing much-needed help to those who can’t do things for themselves. We need to step up and rake their leaves. We need to ensure they have groceries and transportation to their appointments, etc. We need to be that friendly face who encourages them, listens to them and shows them God’s love!
This isn’t a new concept. The early church even assigned special people to caring for the needy. Deacons, they were called! You can see the whole story in Acts 6:1-6. And prior to this, the Bible is also full of commands for us to reach out and help those in need. Here are just a few:
1. “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.” (Leviticus 25:35 NIV)
2. “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11 NIV)
3. “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8 NIV)
“But,” you say, “I AM that lonely, isolated person!”
No matter who you are or what situation you find yourself in, you can be God’s hands and feet on earth. You can call someone. You can bake cookies and have your neighbour distribute them. You can knit and crochet. You can chat with the other neighbours and bring them encouragement.
The point is, as children of the living God, we have been given the responsibility of reaching out to help others. No matter what the need — whether COVID or winter storms or fall leaves or illness or poverty — let’s remember: “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8b NIV)!
In His love,
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries