A recent social media post attempted to reframe our current global pandemic as a chance for Sabbath–rest and renewal in the mist of a chaotic world. This sounds great in theory. After all, I’ve preached many times on the need for self-care in a world of ever-increasing demands. Sabbath is a valuable spiritual practice that can be very meaningful in our lives.

However, I can’t help but question the impact of this formulation. Though Sabbath is, in its strictest sense, a day or time absent from work, there is an implication that it is a voluntary refraining from our normal labor. With more and more people out of work, kids out of school and needing more food, childcare, and attention, entire regional economies threatened, and people being very scared for their very well-being, it hardly seems in the spirit of Sabbath, especially for some of the most economically vulnerable people in our society.

Nothing that is happening now is voluntary.

No, I don’t want you to take a Sabbath right now. There is work to be done for people need those of us who are not immuno-compromised or otherwise threatened by COVID-19. As a relatively healthy, middle-aged person, I am thinking of how I can organize mutual aid for folks around me, how I can be of service to those who need supplies. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am to have a support system or a job that will not stop paying me during this time. I want to find ways to connect, even in this time of mandatory in-person disconnection. Definitely take care of yourself during these times, but I hope you will all join me as you are able.

Everyone can do something. Call someone and ask how they are. Send an email, text, or card letting folks know you’re thinking about them. Buy some extra supplies at the store and cook dinner for the shut-in down the road. Offer to watch the kids of a working poor neighbor who can’t afford the childcare right now but also can’t afford to lose their job.

Radical philosopher Derrick Jensen says, “When hope dies, action begins.” Many people are losing hope right now, and, like me, that is driving them to action. Paradoxically, this has the potential to produce hope in and of itself. In the most seemingly hopeless of times, coming together in community, rather than splintering into individualistic retreat, can be a salvation in and of itself. It is in these times that we realize how powerful we are together, and this, in itself, is hope for hopeless times.

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