We are apprehensive, wanting to bring those we love close under protective arms, away from uncertainty and danger. We are preparing to bunker down, expecting it, just waiting for the word.
Each day brings new, unwelcome surprises, things we thought belonged in that far-off pocket of history labelled “War” or “Depression”; schools closing, events cancelled, runs on essential items. The assumption of plentiful supplies and our faith in medicine curing most ills has been shaken. We feel vulnerable in a way we have not felt vulnerable before. What will happen? If we cannot go out, what do we need? How long will this last?
People of faith may draw some comfort from the soothing words of St Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing disturb you
Let nothing frighten you
All things are passing away
God never changes
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing
God alone suffices.
For those who don’t believe in God, the French have a beautiful phrase, “se munir de patience” which translates as “to possess one’s soul in patience”. Things will become clearer or at least a new normal will be established and we will all adjust. Eventually, things will get better, but for now calmness and patience will help us stay level, help us avoid lurching from one virus-related report to the next, help us prevent bad news sending another shot of fear coursing through our veins.
What gives us hope and confidence that all will be well are the people in the street, who are doing things kindly and without seeking commendation for their actions. They are the people already keeping an eye on elderly friends, they are those who have carved out a shopping time just for the elderly and those with disabilities, and those shop assistants keeping the toilet paper off the shelves so that they can be distributed in fair shares to as many as possible.
We will come out of this chaos eventually but before we do, these times will test our courage and internal reserves of strength. They will reveal our own true character.
Will we be the ones who trample others in our haste to look after our own needs or will we pause and know that we can share?
Will we look at others as fellow human beings with the same needs as ourselves or will we block them out, dehumanise them, see them as competitors in a new perceived struggle for survival?
Will these testing times reveal a person who panics and crumbles in the face of uncertainty or someone who, despite the unknowns can smile, comfort and reassure others?
Time will tell.
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