My 8-year-old arrived home last week in tears. Lip quivering, she came to me with a heap of questions about the coronavirus.
“Is my daddy going to get coronavirus because he’s Chinese?”
I looked at her dumbfounded – my heart walking a thread-bare tightrope between sadness and anger.
“Who told you that, Baby?”
“Oh, kids at school are saying all different things. One kid was running around at recess saying he had the coronavirus.”
I prayed. Oh Jesus, give me the words.
I took my blond baby-girl into my lap, and looked into her almond-shaped, dark eyes. “What are your questions?”
We worked through them one by one. I held her close.
I tried to be honest, but also reassure her with the truth of how disease spreads and how we could be cautious with washing our hands and staying out of big crowds. We talked about the most vulnerable in our circles. We took deep breaths together.
Frankly, the news on this pandemic and how it impacts us and our neighbors has changed daily. My kids have lots of questions. Misinformation swirls around us. As an Asian-American family and as Christians, we can’t ignore the racism that is spreading across the world faster than this virus. We don’t always have answers, but it’s important to talk to my kids and navigate it together.
These are some ways we can help our kids and ourselves as we navigate all of this:
Pray and breathe. When we are filled with fear, we need to pause and pray. When I was a little girl my mama had me memorize and pray Scriptures when I was afraid. One of my favorites:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 1 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV)
My daughters can recite the words now, too. We choose faith over fear. We can lead our kids, our families, and our churches in praying for those who already have the virus. We can pray for those who are most vulnerable and have compromised immune systems. We can pray for Asian-American brothers and sisters who have endured racism and accusations. We can pray against a spirit of fear.
Reach out. People are urging us to socially distance ourselves from each other. Maybe it’s a good idea to stop shaking hands and touching each other’s faces, but let’s not let the enemy have the upper hand in isolating our hearts. Let’s do what is counterintuitive in the face of fear. Let’s lean in emotionally. We can lead our kids to speak with words of compassion and kindness. We can model for them patience in grocery stores and local businesses. We can check in on our grandparents, our friends, our neighbors. We can make a phone call or send a text to those who might be vulnerable in this situation.
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8
Jesus modeled this spirit for us. He reached out to the most vulnerable in society as his mission. He talked to women who were outcasts, touched lepers, looked into the eyes of ethnic minorities, healed children who were sick, grieved alongside people enduring loss, and invited the poor to be blessed at his table.
Educate. This is an important time when we need to make sure we have correct information and quell rumors before they spread. We have an opportunity to educate our children – not just in how to properly wash their hands and sneeze into the fold of their arms, but also in how this virus does not discriminate. It may have started in a certain part of the world, but it doesn’t mean that all people of a certain race or skin color have it and spread it.
Lament and comfort. We need to give ourselves permission to feel deep sorrow over this spreading pandemic, to mourn what is lost and will be lost, and to cry out to God against the injustices. My little girl needed me to hear her, cry with her, and comfort her instead of sweeping her confusion and grief under the rug.
The Western Church is not as accustomed to making space for lament and grief because we often don’t have to, but this virus levels the playing field. We all need to come to the feet of Jesus, who also welcomed the children.
Love your neighbor. Now, more than ever, we have the opportunity to obey the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39) This may mean sharing food and toilet paper with our neighbors. This might look like helping our kids stick up for their friends who are singled out because of their ethnic background and alienated in the lunchroom. This could look like ordering from or dining at a local Chinese restaurant as a small act of solidarity to support a local business and say, “We are not afraid to eat with you.”
In Galatians 6:2, Paul urged us to carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. As I sit at the dinner table with my family, we brainstorm ways we can love our neighbors and be agents of healing in this time of uncertainty. We pray for our friends, our school, our country, our world, and those most affected. We cling to hope because this is the peace offering we as believers have to offer the world today.
Sometimes we have to look fear in the face and speak truth. As moms and dads, it’s vital that we collect the facts and filter it through our spiritual lenses. That’s the best way to help our kids navigate the chaos of this world with a deeper perspective of Kingdom living and an eternal hope.
Dorina Gilmore-Young is a mama to 3 strong girls and wife to Shawn, living in Central California. She is the author of Cora Cooks Pancit, a children’s book about food and culture, as well as a speaker, Bible teacher, spoken word artist, runner and foodie. Find her at http://www.DorinaGilmore.com and @DorinaGilmore on Instagram.