My mother was expressing her love and admiration for her husband, my late dad. “He loved us all very much and he was his brother’s keeper.” Dad had a brother who had experienced serious difficulties and Dad did what a good brother does, he was there to help out.
The expression “my brother’s keeper” keeps popping into mind during this COVID-19 pandemic we’re in − not with regard to actual siblings, but brothers in the broad sense of others in need of assistance. The brotherhood of need you might say. All around us we have brothers and sisters in need: the elderly in nursing homes, the elderly in their own homes, sometimes alone, the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the poor, the mentally ill, the lonely and those with special needs.
Those folks who are cutting and sewing masks and giving them to doctors, nurses, hospitals, police, firefighters, first responders, friends and neighbors are certainly their brother’s keeper. Why? They are filling a need – the shortage of protective masks and they feel they are providing a helping hand. They’re being useful and they feel good about it.
The situation now is that everybody is at risk of getting the virus and everybody is a possible carrier. I can get it from you and you can get it from me. We’re all in need of being our brother’s keeper – for ourselves and for one another.
We read about the heroic efforts of others: doctors, nurses and medical personnel working to mental and physical exhaustion where the inflicted are pouring in in excess of the capacity to care for them. All at their own personal risk. These saints are clearly their brother’s keeper.
We look around us and our humanness is aroused with new sympathy, new compassion, new generosity, new courtesy and an increased desire to reach out and help others in big ways or in small gestures: delivering meals to school kids, picking up groceries for the elderly, getting a take-out to support a closed eating place, sending a check to the food pantry, just staying home so as not to be a link in the spread of the virus. Our Good Samaritan impulses are aroused.
One helper who had once been homeless, but had experienced kindness, said this: “So now, delivering food to other people who need help is absolutely my mission. It’s not a job. I’m supremely blessed to do this. Not for a minute did I consider staying home during this outbreak.
I changed my gloves at every location and wear a mask. We deliver hope and love. I know these people. They’re my friends. Now they’re behind a wall to prevent the virus from spreading, so we can’t interact with them. It brought me to tears. We’re flashing up heart signs and saying ‘I love you’ through the wall. I was crying, but it wasn’t because there was fear. There’s love going on in this whole thing.”
We can hope some of that love and kindness is left over after we conquer the virus.