Fighting the Pandemic with Our Hearts and Our Smarts

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A development economist and a disaster-relief expert show how to approach COVID-19 as “Shrewd Samaritans.”

Particularly in this time of global pandemic, we want to know how to care for our local and global neighbors in ways that are meaningful and effective. We want to follow the example of the Good Samaritan in loving our neighbors as ourselves. But we also want to make sure we’re reaching out to those in need with both our hearts and our smarts.

In other words, Christians should approach COVID-19 not just as Good Samaritans but also as what we—writing as a development economist (Bruce) and an expert on humanitarian disaster intervention (Kent)—like to call Shrewd Samaritans. And what are the distinguishing marks of a Shrewd Samaritan? Perhaps the best place to begin is with a visit to the dentist I (Bruce) have been seeing for years.

Thinking Like an Economist

Dr. David Yee’s modest office is located on the street level below his house, near the corner of 31st Avenue and Clement Street, a few miles from my office at the University of San Francisco. Most people avoid going to the dentist. I never avoid going to the dentist because I get to talk to Dr. Yee. Even during the unfortunate visit when oral excavation is required, his calming face, hovering above my open mouth like a smiling moon, has for 20 years offered reassurance during tense episodes of drilling and repair.

Upon learning during my early visits that I was a development economist, Dr. Yee would ask me if I had been to any “crazy new countries” lately. After sharing a few stories about recent travels and research projects, I asked him if he had ever done one of those overseas dental missions. “No, afraid I’m a bit of a homebody,” he would say. “The city is plenty for me.”

And so the conversation looped for …

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