I’m on my way to breakfast. As I come downstairs, on this Tuesday morning, I sense that something is different. It’s peak traffic time but there’s a quietness, bordering on silence, as the occasional car and bus pass by on the usually very busy main street outside the house. The airport is twenty minutes away. I listen, but I don’t hear any planes taking off or landing. It feels like Sunday morning!
We are in the middle of March. Spring is here. The daffodils are straining to show off their golden glory. I can hear the birds singing in the trees, calling to potential mates in the local park. Nature is waking up from the dark days of winter and telling us that life goes on and on. But, we are going into lockdown, fearful, haunted by nature’s other side, the insidious presence of the Coronavirus. This tiny, natural upstart has struck terror into hearts and minds across the planet. As I prepare my coffee, my imagination runs riot. Could this be Mother Nature’s revenge for our blatant disregard of the great bounty she has offered us since life on earth began? It’s clear that we have been and still are abusers.
Here, in the UK, we know that every person, organisation, business, government policy, religion, sports and leisure activity will be challenged. Above all, the medical services are working to capacity. For many, it is time to go into survival mode.
This brings me to reflect on how we relate to one another at such a critical time. I have observed and experienced the goodwill and generosity of my neighbours and so many others. We are in constant contact through Whatsapp and other social media. As a vulnerable person, 86 years old, I feel totally secure. My online shopping service keeps my food supply going! On reflection it seems to me that such an unprecedented situation brings out the best and the worst in people. Supermarket shelves are being cleared as some people are buying out of sheer panic that they might starve to death! Then, there are people who are offering assistance to the vulnerable or those in a lockdown situation, offering to do shopping and so on.
The prospect of long-term lockdown is really daunting. However, my mind turns to those people, countries, that have endured lockdown for many, many years, even generations, refugees and asylum seekers in camps, Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, political prisoners, etc. Here, in the affluent West we have so much, too much of everything that we have begun to see this as a divine right! We deny admittance to migrants because we might have to share what we have. Two women fighting over a pack of toilet rolls in a supermarket are certainly not thinking of the wandering thousands of men, women and children deprived of everything as they seek a better life.
What happens next? A long period of uncertainty lies ahead. We have to look for the signs of life and encourage them. Right now, in this springtime, allow nature to speak to us, even in our cities. Listen for the birdsong. Look for signs of new life. Look out for one another. Be kind to the planet. Our prayer and care must reach contagion level, quickly!
- Maureen McCollum, Society of Helpers