Like many people, COVID-19 has shrunk my life down to the walls of my home.
As the president of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization that works in nearly 100 countries including in the Unites States, normally I’m on the move. Most months I log thousands of miles traveling around the U.S. and to some of the most remote corners of the world, meeting with the people who help us do the work Jesus calls us to do.
But these days, my house has become my office, cafeteria, gym, movie theater, and even a makeshift church. Our family has to be especially careful, because my daughter Andrea has cerebral palsy. We cannot risk jeopardizing her already fragile health. This means no visitors and no travel, and not even trips to World Vision’s warehouse just a few miles away where we prepare emergency supplies for families in need.
Even more than the physical distance, COVID-19 threatens to shrink our spirits and emotions. As we’re isolated in our homes, apart from dear friends, elderly relatives, and our church family, it steals the comfort we find in community. And as so many people face furloughs, work limitations, and even unemployment, it hijacks our sense of purpose. With these areas under attack, it’s easy to give in to fear, loneliness, and even aimlessness – losing the very purpose God gives each of us.
That’s why I am choosing to fight back with prayer and a bias for action. I believe it’s action, no matter how small or simple, that gives us back what could otherwise be lost.
Maybe for your family, it’s making sure you’re still gathering together and spending time with the Lord, even if you can’t be within the walls of your church. Or it could be remembering to enjoy the precious additional time you’ve been given to have your children at home. Maybe it’s checking in on a loved one over the phone, offering a prayer or word of encouragement. It could be donating to your local food bank or our Family Emergency Kits, which feed a family of five for a week.
It also can be as simple as taking a few steps. And that’s why I’ll be getting on my treadmill on May 16.
Every May, when the weather turns mild, perfect for a race, World Vision raises awareness about the global water crisis through our Global 6K For Water. Participants walk or run to provide clean water and hygiene for families in the developing world. But like so many things, this year is different.
Typically, it’s an event full of community, fanfare, and a sea of orange shirts as churches and neighbors join together to walk so that others don’t have to. This year it’s entirely virtual – the cheers will come from an audio program and your headphones. Instead of central sites, thousands of people will be walking in their own communities and homes, connecting afterward online.
For me, I’ll be breaking a tradition we look forward to every year. The last few years, Andrea and I suited up in our special T-shirts and joined the crowds at the local Global 6K event. Actually, I ran, pushing her in her wheelchair, and she enjoyed the ride. This year, she will have to watch while I am on the treadmill – not the same experience.
But there’s something else that’s different. In the past, 6K walkers and runners did so with urgency, knowing that 1,000 children die each day from illnesses that could be prevented if they only have access to clean water. This year, we realize that for millions of people, no clean water also means no way to safely wash your hands – a basic protection against the pandemic that we take for granted. That includes frontline healthcare workers in the developing world. In rural health clinics where World Vision works, only 16 percent of the facilities have access to a basic handwashing station with soap and water. It’s shocking to imagine.
It’s those children, families, and healthcare workers I’ll be thinking of this year as I run on my treadmill. And with every step I’ll banish the fear, loneliness, and aimlessness the virus has threatened to bring into my home.
Edgar Sandoval Sr. is president of World Vision U.S. Follow him at twitter.com/EdgarSandovalSr.