It’s official. I don’t understand people.
I’m having issues with people right now. No, not on whether they sneeze in my face, talk incessantly, wear tattoos or belly button rings, or kiss their same sex partner on the lips in public. My social judgement is much more germane. It’s all about toilet paper.
People have gone crazy over toilet paper. And I am not amused.
In response to the exponential spread of the Corona virus, shoppers are stocking up on toilet paper. Even after our local Walmart promised to restock overnight, the toilet paper row held nothing but barren shelves. One woman behind me at Dollar General had her cart stacked high with mega roll packages. A story on Facebook told of a shopper who defied the “limit 2” rule at Target by filling her cart then calling her family members to meet her so they could each go through the line. And no, the way it was worded, it wasn’t so she could share with elderly Aunt Jane. It was for her.
I shook my self-righteous head in disgust and proudly pushed my shopping cart with a single layer of produce toward the cash register. People! What is wrong with you?
“Yes, what is wrong with them?”
God’s Holy Spirit spoke those words over my unspoken monologue. Then He gave me the answer in the morning mail.
This morning, the mail carrier delivered my author copy of an article I wrote for the magazine, Reach Out Columbia. In reading over my article, I came to this paragraph:
“Grace looks beyond someone’s faults to meet their needs. The bigger the fault, the greater the need.”
It’s embarrassing when my own words convict me.
Yes, hoarding toilet paper to the point of depriving others is not socially nice. But Jesus wants me to step beyond my social annoyance. The fault, according to my own words, represents a need, particularly a need for the peace and promises Christ has to offer.
What is the need? What is the core need? Why would people hoard toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, and canned beans during a pandemic? And what does that say about what is happening deep within them?
Modern economies run on trust and confidence, one Internet article said. With the spread of the corona virus, one thing is certain right now: everything is uncertain. Over the last week, we have awakened to an escalation of new cases, more deaths, school and restaurant closures, and the threat of closing church doors. To keep from going into total isolation, we’ve scrambled to create ways to cope. Perfection isn’t the point; survival is. Yes, we, local leaders, and even the President could be doing a better job of making snap decisions, but, hey, we’re making this up as we go along and we admit, this is as new to all of us as the virus itself.
We like the expected and routine. Right now, life is anything but. So we grab on to the seen and the known in order to be sure of something in life. Even if it’s toilet paper.
Time for a compassion restock.
Purchasing more items than a household could use in a year may be a telltale sign of fear, anxiety, and a lack of trust in God to provide. For someone who doesn’t have confidence in a God who is bigger and more powerful than even the Corona virus, the future must look scary. I’ve committed myself to living one day at a time, trusting that God will provide my needs. I use discretion and plan for the future, but because of my basic trust that God will care for me, I don’t overreact. I need to remember that not everyone views this situation the same way I do.
So, instead of laughing at those who buy excess toilet paper and criticizing those who swipe the shelves clean of hand sanitizer, let’s use those behaviors as a chance to find out more about the people behind the grocery cart. They are people who need Jesus, people who are looking for something or someone to trust, human beings who are realizing maybe for the first time how much they long for peace and security. If you are a Christian, you have what they are looking for. And it’s not toilet paper.
How can you pass on your confidence in Christ?
- Pay for someone’s groceries if they don’t have enough money.
- Show your faith by sharing out of your abundance to elderly neighbors, hungry children whose parents are at work, or lonely neighbors far from family who just need some comfort food.
- Engage fellow shoppers in conversation, showing that you care how the Corona virus is impacting their life situation.
- Patronize a restaurant, even if it means accepting curbside service so workers can keep earning their wage.
- Look for openings in the conversation to talk of your faith in Christ. That happened twice to me in a doctor’s office today. Those two people started the conversation and it was completely natural for me to throw in comments about my faith without getting the usual glazed look from my conversation partner.
What about that lady behind you with her cart full of stuff she’ll never use up?
- Talk to her kids.
- Offer to unload her purchases onto the counter.
- Let the joy of Christ rule your face muscles.
- Pray that God bring people into her life who will give her hope and confidence in the only perfectly trustworthy Person.
The corona virus pandemic is scary. It’s sobering. We may lose people we love. But it’s also an opportunity to shepherd many toward Eternity and to share the faith we hold so dear. When people face crisis, they are more open to considering solutions of how to cope. And Jesus is the best solution of all.
The book of Acts tells the story of a beggar who looked for a handout. He didn’t want toilet paper; he wanted money. Money to help him get through his crippling crisis. Peter said to him,
“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”Acts 3:6, NIV
Peter gave the man what he needed most: healing. Let’s use the corona virus to offer people what they need most and what, deep down, they want far more than just toilet paper. Let’s give them hope.