As a grandmother, mother, and pastor living and serving in Dane County during the coronavirus pandemic, I am interested in the emerging practices which cross faith and secular boundaries. Experiencing the new realities of our lives, handwashing, wearing a mask, social distancing, and using technology to keep in touch can be seen as more than just keeping us physically healthy. What if we were to recognize these actions as intentional, positive moments of showing how we love our neighbors?

For example, we can intentionally use the 20 seconds as we wash our hands to think of the ways in which we are connected to our global community. Billions of people are taking part in this simple daily ritual. Kamau Ayubbi of the Department of Spiritual Care, Michigan Medicine, suggests “we can embrace the act of handwashing as something more than something we do for physical health… The idea is this: that a small and necessary task done collectively with intention will contribute to a healthier social and emotional environment. Kindness and Compassion to self and others make a challenging situation bearable and meaningful and opens us up to creative ways to find health during stressful and challenging times” (FaceBook post May, 2020).

Faith communities around the world share the principle we frequently refer to as the Golden Rule. In my own tradition, it is summed up as “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). The Wisconsin Council of Churches has been encouraging people to post a picture of themselves wearing a mask with the hashtag “Love your neighbor, wear a mask.” This is an act we can do to show our love and respect for others in our community.

Before I became a pastor, I was a speech and language pathologist. I worked with people who could not use speech as their primary mode of communication. I helped children and adults to explore and use the low tech and high-tech tools that helped them become more independent and build meaningful relationships. This multi-modal use of technology is important to us during the pandemic as we connect with others via telephone, cards, emails, Zoom, and social media. I am grateful for the many ways we have for learning and building relationships—from low tech pencils and paper to high tech computers.

These are all acts I can do to love my neighbors during the pandemic.

Kris Gorton

City of Fitchburg