When we first sheltered in place, I prioritized the comfort and stabilization of my home—deciding to go on daily walks, enjoy the increased cooking, and even start a new TV show to fill the gaps. I’ve honestly been more consumed with forming routines for myself than considering ways to help others.

But I’m reminded Jesus’ greatest commandments to His followers were: “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

Loving my neighbors—and by “neighbors” He means everyone—isn’t just a nice thought or something to make me feel better about myself. It’s an obedient response to what God has asked of me.

Whether we’re feeling lonely, stifled, angry, or stretched thin, we all need the love of a neighbor.

Simple ways to help others

I’ll admit I’ve let a few opportunities to help others pass me by. I haven’t done nothing, but I haven’t done as much as I could. Thankfully, it’s not too late. I’m praying for creativity to think of ways to help others during this time and for the obedience to move when I see an opportunity.

Besides, we can all do something, right? Here are some simple ways to help others during the coronavirus outbreak.

1. Reach out to the kids you know.

I’ve been able to video chat with my Bible study group of sixth-grade girls weekly. The smiles on their faces are priceless. Some have opened up even more than usual. I think they crave another adult (not just peers) outside of their family to visit with.

What kids do you normally interact with that you can reach out to? Do you serve in a youth group or at an after-school program? Consider even reaching out to some kids who might need encouragement.

2. Make a visit to your single friend’s front yard.

As a single woman, I’ve never been more thankful for my housemate. Having someone to eat and laugh and watch shows and work on puzzles with has kept my spirits lifted. But when the “shelter-in-place” orders began coming out, the first people I sympathized with were those living alone.

But as long as we keep our distance, a friendly, front-yard visit is doable and effective. I’ve toted my lawn chair and a bottle of water to a single friend’s yard just to offer the physical presence of another person.

3. Continue being part of your local church.

Even with restrictions, churches are engaging their members in various ways to help others in need—donating to a local food drive, sewing masks for local hospitals. I’ve also heard of churches receiving generous financial gifts to help ease the struggle many families are facing.

Ask the Lord how He wants you to help others with the gifts He’s given you, whether it’s at a local non-profit, church, or global ministry.

4. Encourage the people you live with.

In such an unconventional time, encouragement is critical. Yet some may not be receiving the affirmation they’re used to hearing at school, work, or after-school programs.

Are we speaking life to those under the same roof? Thoughtful texts, calls, and even social media posts from friends are helpful, but hearing encouragement from the people you’re in this together with can go a long way. Even cheesy stuff like, “You get a gold star for your hard work today!” can win a smile.

5. Check in with your parents/grandparents.

Maybe you’re a grandparent shouting, “Amen!” to this one. My grandparents tell me they think of me every day. I know I should call more. They want to hear our voices and how we’re doing. Now is a prime time to pick up that habit.

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6. Send flowers or a surprise package to a friend.

A friend of mine is a florist and recently advertised she’d deliver bouquets of flowers at a low price. It made me think how delightful it would be to find on my front porch fresh flowers with my name on them.

The same goes for gifts. There’s a reason why “brown paper packages tied up with strings” made the cut as one of our favorite things. With the availability of online shops, we can easily help others with little surprises to lift their spirits.

7. Mail handwritten letters.

Along the same lines of gifts, it’s hard to beat opening the mailbox and finding a thick, handwritten letter addressed to you. I’m one of those people who stash away meaningful notes in boxes to peruse intermittently.

Although the sender could have sent a text, the physical form of a letter and the time it took to write it communicate more care. Maybe you should consider ordering some stationery.

8. Send songs, podcasts, or books related to a friend’s unique struggle.

I had a long conversation with a friend about singleness recently. After I hung up I ordered her a copy of Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity. Knowing how it ministered to me, I wanted to ensure it made it to her library in this time when aloneness feels more tangible than normal.

We’re all wrestling strong emotions right now. Some moments I win against anxiety, and in others it prevails. So I turn to truth-filled songs, podcasts, and books that bring my gaze back to Jesus. A wonderful way to help others is by sharing resources that helped you traverse similar trials.

9. Remind people you’re praying for them.

I’m guilty of telling people, “I’m praying!” and then forgetting to bring it to the Lord. What a waste of an opportunity. In the words of Oswald Chambers, “Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying.” We have the gift of interceding for others and yet we forget to use it.

I’ve tried lately to take the extra minute and write out my specific prayer for someone in a text. That way I don’t forget and fully communicate my sincerity. This is a perfect time to turn our eyes away from ourselves and lift up other people’s needs.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray for the unexpressed needs of friends and family. Listen for the Lord’s promptings, and pray for those He brings to mind.

10. Get creative with what you have.

Many of us have things lying around our homes—baking ingredients, painting supplies, or even some hard-to-find items right now—that with a dash of ingenuity could turn into real gifts.

A few weeks ago, my family texted a picture of notes stapled to 25 paper sacks filled with lemons. The notes read:

“Hello neighbors! Here are some lemons hand-picked (with gloves – #COVID-19) from our tree to brighten your day. We are praying for you and are here for you if you need anything at all. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any prayer requests,” followed by my Mom’s email and Psalm 33:18-22.

What kind of homemade—or homegrown—gifts could you help others with?

What an opportunity we have to show the love of Christ during this grim time. How will you “love your neighbor” today?

Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Lauren Miller serves on staff with FamilyLife as a writer in Little Rock, Arkansas, though she’ll always be a California girl. She graduated from Biola University and the Torrey Honors Institute where the Lord first planted in her a love for family and marriage ministry. As a single, she loves serving the youth at her church, watching British dramas, and reading a good book in her free time.