Overcoming fears of Covid-19

I live in a small agricultural town in central California called Planada, composed of approximately 5,000 residents. I have worked for the school district as its community liaison for the past 18 years. I felt an even stronger desire to help this community after a special trip I took back in January 2020 to accompany the youth of the Focolare Movement, ages 8–16, to Trent in Italy to celebrate the centennial of Chiara Lubich’s birth. Being there in her native town, I was able to learn firsthand of her experiences, of how she would concretely help the others around her

I came back home in March — right when we were all called to shelter in place due to the pandemic.
My field of work has given me ample opportunity to know my community very well. Many of our families are undocumented and agricultural workers; they do not have the means to pay all their bills, and for some, not even to feed their families. Knowing that many families needed help made those first few weeks of lockdown very hard for me.
I knew I had to do something, yet I thought, “But what if I get the virus?” I had also been told by the county’s chief executive officer that anyone living in an unincorporated area (as in my case) could self-declare themselves mayor. But I knew that if I were to do that, it would come with much responsibility.
Then I remembered those days in Trent during World War II, when Chiara made a decision to stay behind to help the people in her town, even if it meant having to risk the bombardments. I realized that this pandemic was a different type of war. I too had to move ahead, out of love, and to take that step to help my community. I too want to give my life for my neighbors, even if it means going outside with the possibility of being exposed to Covid.
So, I went ahead looking for grants, as well as food, to help those in need. I asked some friends to look into their pantries to see if they had anything to share with others.
I had heard that I was to going to receive a grant to buy food for these families. However, at the last minute, the grant was given to someone else. I was a bit disappointed, almost upset, because I was seeing the need these families had.
One evening, when I felt that the doors were closing for my community, I remembered what was shared with us in Trent. Chiara and her friends would walk around with a notepad and pen, writing down people’s needs. Then she would ask the Eternal Father for the providence to give to Jesus present in each person in need. So instead of being frustrated and disappointed, I began to pray and ask God to provide me the help for the people in my community.
After two days of praying, I still had not mentioned anything to anyone. While praying the Rosary, I received a text message from a member of the Focolare community. He was telling me that he had heard that there was a need in my community and wanted to help.
At first, I was a little shy about accepting his help and I was going to say “no.” Then I told myself: “I have not told anyone about my community’s needs. This must be the answer from the Eternal Father.”
This person right away sent me money to help out. The next day another member of the Focolare community sent another donation. Two days later someone else sent me a message saying that in memory of her mother, she wanted to give me a donation to feed the hungry of my community. I then went and bought food and delivered it to the families in need. The families were so happy and appreciative.
I was so overwhelmed with joy and peace seeing the relief in the families’ faces, which also confirmed for me that God is always there to answer whenever we ask. It taught me not to be afraid to go out and love.
It is through concrete love that we reach Jesus in the other. I personally feel this is the best gift I could try to offer on Chiara’s100th birthday and to continue this way of life that she handed down to us.

Olivia Gomez

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