As we all know the last seven days have been a week like no other. Our way of life has been transformed. Amongst our new found hardships, shock and anxiety we are grieving the loss of things we were looking forward to – things like holidays, weddings, seeing our children attend proms and other rights of passage.
Almost without exception we are all grieving the loss of things we never expected to miss – many of them things we always thought we never really liked. Things like school – even taking exams, travelling on public transport, sitting next to people in meetings and driving our kids to hang around with their friends.
Most of us are anxious. We are worried about money, health, family and we what worry what tomorrow will bring,
We are all missing people too. I’m missing my baby nephew, I’m missing my friends and the adventures I was expecting to have at the now cancelled 40th birthday parties I was expecting to attend this year. Most of us have had emotional phone conversations with friends and relatives whom we would usually see regularly. Usually we might nip round to see a friend who was upset – give them a hug, make them a cup of tea. Now we simply must not do that. I rang my grandparents today – to wish my Nan a happy mother’s day and realised as I hung up that I have no idea if and when I will see them again.
It is ironic that after a decade where we have feared for the consequences on our children for lacking human contact as they were spending too much time on their electronic devices we are now grateful they have them – as they face spending months with this being their only contact with the friends they used to see every day.
Tomorrow, my children, like many others, will begin their first day of homeschooling. Two weeks ago the idea that they would be learning from home would have seemed propostuous to me – I had always taken pride in their high school attendance, worried about the impact on their education and development of social skills if they were away and believed passionately in the need for them to spend time outside, with people from different backgrounds and to hear try new things. Now I don’t know when they will see any other humans in person other than each other, me and my husband and none of us know when we will visit a new place.
These are indeed dark times. But I truly believe there are reasons for optimism.
For as long as I can remember Britain has been known as a ‘selfish society.’ Headlines decried the fact people did not know their neighbours, did not do things for others. We wasted food, we threw things away that worked perfectly well and inequality and a lack of things in common seemed to have bread a lack of empathy.
But this week, none of those things seemed to be true anymore. Yes there are idiots hoarding toilet rolls and refusing to give up their rights to go to the pub. But most people I know have condemned this and are disgusted by that behaviour. What I have seen this week could be described as a rebirth or reignition of true community spirit. People are genuinely concerned for neighbours – often people they barely know the name of and are ensuring they are looked after. People are going through their cupboards and ensuring that, rather than waste food they pass it on to someone else and people are facing several journeys to shops to get shopping for neighbours whose health precludes them from making the journey themselves.
There is conversation everywhere expressing concern for others. I have not heard a single voice of descent about the Chancellor’s measures to protect workers and have universal approval for the measures to include self employed. I’ve never known such consensus on government policy before. Online forums – so often a place for vitriol are now filled with expressions of concern for others and offers of help for others along with thanks for health staff.
This illness seems to strike across the social divide. For the first time in my lifetime I really feel that everyone feels we are in this together and that they must be part of the fight to save lives.
As awful as everything is, I feel proud of my community and I hope the support and solidarity we are providing to each other last long after this wretched virus is eradicated.