“My Mom has COVID-19”

‘My mom has COVID-19,’ and other experiences Shepherd students have endured in the pandemic of 2020

They have been called Generation C. This year, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, tens of millions of students, from preschools to universities, have had their lives, their studies, and their plans severely disrupted.

That certainly has been true for students at Shepherd Academy and for other children on Indianapolis’ near east side. A harsh new reality has set it in as many parents lost jobs and families’ income evaporated. Some children watched as family members struggled to survive the coronavirus.

And even for students whose families have so far escaped the health and economic consequences of the pandemic, the adjustment to staying and studying at home has been difficult.

For Generation C, the coronavirus may well be a defining event, not only in 2020 but for years to come as the world reacts and adjusts to the pandemic — and prepares for whatever lies ahead.

Shepherd Community Center students, who’ve spent recent months learning from home via computers, were asked recently to write letters describing their experiences, thoughts, fears, and prayers from the spring of 2020. Their responses provide an insight into just how close to home this global crisis has hit.

“My mom has COVID-19, but she is doing better,” one fourth-grade student wrote. “COVID-19 affects me because I cannot see my friends. I can only hear their voices, and I do not get to have fun.”

A second child noted that the virus has threatened a family member’s health. “I do not have COVID-19, but my sister does,” a fifth-grade student wrote. “We do not live in the same house, but she is getting better. I am still worrying about her, even though I cannot see her.”

A deep sense of loss was a common theme in the letters. The losses include not being able to attend school or interact with teachers in person, not seeing friends, not participating in sports, not shopping in a grocery store with mom or dad, not attending church.

“What I don’t like about e-learning is that I can’t see my friends and teachers,” a fifth-grade student wrote. “We have to stay at home for the rest of the year, which is sad because I love the last day of school.”

An older student noted the challenge of learning from a distance, especially with subjects that aren’t a strength. “I have not liked my teacher not being face to face with me for the subjects I have trouble with. For example, math,” the student wrote. “That has been a struggle, but my older sister has helped out. COVID-19 has also affected me outside of school. I am not able to go out as much and have missed doing very simple things like go to a Kroger. Also, self-quarantining can get extremely boring after the first two weeks.”

That same student acknowledged the support he’s received as sudden changes became a part of every-day routine.

“My older sister gave me a quote when starting e-learning to help motivate me,” he wrote. “It helped me become aware that I could not fool around even if I wasn’t in a real classroom. The quote is from Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. It says ‘All successes begin with self-discipline. It starts with you.’”

And the student concluded his letter with a thought about the future:

“I am hoping for better times to come.”

So are we all, young man. So are we all.

Shepherd paramedic meets vital needs on front lines of pandemic

When coronavirus hit, Shepherd paramedic met vital needs on front lines of pandemic

Shane Hardwick was already on the front lines, meeting neighbors’ health needs on Indianapolis’ near east side, when news broke this winter about a deadly new disease ravaging Wuhan, China.

By early March, the news was even more grim, and much closer to home. The coronavirus, then on the verge of being declared a pandemic, had emerged as an imminent threat to Indianapolis.

On March 2, Hardwick, a paramedic based at and financially supported by Shepherd Community Center, met with Shepherd’s leadership team, including Executive Director Jay Height and Assistant Director Andrew Green, to discuss preparations for this new and daunting emergency.

“The issues still seemed pretty far off, but the news out of China wasn’t promising,” Hardwick says three hard and exhausting months later. “The reality of a global pandemic soon became apparent and we started gearing up for what appeared to be uncharted territory.”

Shepherd’s executive team approved Hardwick’s request for supplies, including thermometers, finger box probes used to measure patients’ oxygen levels, weight scales used to monitor heart patients’ water retention, and Tylenol used to manage patients’ fever and other symptoms.

One critical strategy that Marion County health officials deployed was to instruct medical providers to do all they could to keep patients in their homes and out of emergency rooms, where the risk of contracting the virus would be much higher.

From Hardwick’s perspective as a paramedic, he and others who visited patients in their homes filled a critical role in making that strategy a success.

“An EMT, another paramedic and I handled most of Marion County through the first months of this pandemic,” Hardwick says. “No other public safety agency in Indianapolis has a model that provides follow up with citizens, so we can safely say that we have been handling all of the follow-ups in the city so far. We found that the lion’s share of the work we did during this event kept us on the near east side. To illustrate the success of our program, of the more than 160 patients we encountered during the two-week peak period, only one patient’s symptoms became worse and required transport (to a hospital), and none of the patients that we had encountered had to call 911 for illness after our visit.”

In addition, Shepherd took the lead in helping individuals on the east side whose health conditions made it dangerous or not physically possible for them to leave their homes to buy groceries or have other essential needs met. Shepherd became a lifeline for food, medicine, and other basic supplies for those neighbors as well as for hundreds of families as job losses mounted in the city.

In response to the pandemic, the city opened temporary shelters at the State Fairgrounds and Washington Park for people experiencing homelessness. Hardwick provided care at both locations, meeting a range of needs.

“We have encountered everything from allergic reactions to leukemia,” he says. “We started picking up prescribed medicines from the pharmacies. These scripts were coming from the ERs or our EMS docs prescribing meds for minor ailments. We also started connecting patients with primary care doctors. The medicines we picked up and the Ubers we sent patients to doctor’s appointments in were all paid for by Shepherd Community Center.”

As the worst of the pandemic begins to wane and Indiana and the city reopen, there’s an understandable tendency to let down – to believe that the crisis has passed. But Hardwick notes that now is the time to prepare for what many experts forecast will be a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the fall.

“We have the summer to restock supplies and do an (After Action Review) of the events that took place this spring,” he says.

And he points out that neighbors’ needs are greater than ever as the economic and health consequences of the pandemic continue to reverberate.

“From a social need, my hope is that Shepherd finds continued ways to stay engaged with their families,” Hardwick says. “We are getting a front-row seat to some of the downstream effects of social distancing and the uncertainty of our job market. Anecdotally, there seems to be a rise in suicides, domestic violence, and self-medication. Shepherd has been a beacon in the neighborhood for a long time. We need to maintain that sense of calm, love, and support for the families that we serve. How we do that from six feet away is going to be the challenge — but certainly not impossible.”

Back to the Beginning

As I think about this Poverty 101 Blog it can sometimes be difficult to know what to talk about.  The reality is that there are so many things to choose from that it can be overwhelming.  Kind of like that kid who walks into a playroom that is wall to wall to ceiling full of toys.  They often just sit there looking at it all without really making a decision about which toy to play with.  It has been a little bit like that for me trying to decide what we should cover in this.

So, this morning I have decided to go back to the beginning.  And where do we begin?  Well, as those who call Jesus “Lord” and strive to follow God’s Word, that must be the place to start, with God’s Revelation through the Scriptures.

One of the passages that first led me to begin thinking about our call to serve the poor comes from Paul in Ephesians.  I remember reading it during my quiet time one morning in Seminary.  In Chapter 4, verse 28 while telling the Church in Ephesus what the Christian life is supposed to look like, Paul says, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with those in need.”

I remember thinking to myself that there were a lot of other ways that Paul could have finished that sentence.  Based on my understanding as a young man I would have said something like, “so that people will ask about the change in your life and you can share the gospel with them.”  Or, “so that people will know that God is at work in you and the Holy Spirit can use that to draw people to God.”

But Paul doesn’t do that.  And we might think that Paul misses an opportunity there to share the Gospel.  But he doesn’t.

Our call to spread the Good News is wrapped up in that call from Paul.  If we are going to attempt to evangelize the lost and not do anything about caring for the needy among us then we are just pretending.  When we care for the “least of these” the Gospel is lived out and the Kingdom of God is advanced.