When I was a kid, one of the most exciting things that could happen was to have school cancelled. It felt like a present, to wake up and be told by your mom and dad that school was closed for the day. Usually because of snow. All the town’s kids would get their sleds and head to the park hill, next door to the school, which seems ironic now, but made perfect sense at the time.

Cancelling meeting for worship for three weeks felt a bit like that at first. The gift of unexpected time-off. But now as we move further into this virus event, the Center for Disease Control is telling us these days of social isolation might extend well into the summer months. Suddenly what felt like a pleasant Sabbath rest has morphed into an existential layoff. Public libraries are closing, schools, churches, all the places we gather and grow. It’s gotten so serious we Quaker men can’t even meet for lunch at the Clayton Café on Wednesdays.

There’s a young woman who works at the Clayton Café named Casee. Casee is a single mother, dependent upon tips to pay her bills. Randy Horton ate at the Café just before our governor ordered restaurants and bars closed. Casee was anxious. “Pray for me,” she said.

We Fairfield men of the Wednesday Lunch Club are fond of Casee. She’s the age of our children, has hundreds of customers each week, but has taken the trouble to remember our names, and our dining peculiarities. She’s never asked anything of us until now. And now all she’s asking for are our prayers. Those men of the Lunch Club are good men, all of them, not a stinker in the bunch. So they’re praying, but also figuring out a way to help Casee make up the income she’s already losing.

There are millions of Casees in our nation right now. When one considers the scope of need, it seems overwhelming, and it becomes tempting to sit on our hands and do nothing. I love the story of the little girl walking on the beach with her grandfather, and they came upon a strange phenomenon, thousands of star fish washed up on the sand. The little girl bent down, picked one up, and placed it back in the water. The grandfather said that was nice, but saving just one wouldn’t matter. The little girl said, “Well, grandpa, it’ll matter to that one.”

That’s where we’re at now, friends. And our choice is the same that little girl faced. We can either despair and do nothing, or we can start carrying the starfishes back to the water. We can check on our neighbors and friends. Make runs to the grocery store. Cook a meal for them. Help them cover their rent or mortgage. Pay an electric bill. Heck, maybe even go all out and loan folks a roll of toilet paper. In the church we call that sacrificial giving.

My mother in law, Ruby Apple, was born smack in the middle of the 1918 flu epidemic and told me stories her mother had told her. The enduring lesson was this: the ones who came out with their spirits intact were the ones who helped, the ones who shared, the ones who gave.

While I’m worried this virus might claim the lives of our more vulnerable friends and family, I’m more worried it will claim our spirits. I’m more worried we’ll become mistrustful, selfish, greedy, and self-absorbed. That would be a far greater tragedy.

Pray for Casee, would you please. Pray for one another. For our children and grandchildren. But then put muscle to your prayers and help. We’re all in this together. Viruses make no distinction between the rich and poor, the powerful and powerless. They don’t stop at a nation’s border, nor do they check one’s political leanings. In times like these, we save ourselves by saving others.

Meeting for worship might be cancelled, but life isn’t. This is still a time for us to learn and grow. The lessons continue, and the test is coming soon. Let’s work hard to make sure we pass.