The COVID19 pandemic impacts on us all and reveals the deep divides between us. While for some, catching the virus will mean a measure of discomfort and isolation, for too many, catching COVID19 is fatal. Where some only need to put into place sensible social distancing measures others put their own lives at risk to discharge their duty of care as health professionals and key workers. Some have incomes that are secure where others find themselves in dire circumstances as their businesses shutdown and the economy contracts. Where some are taken up with daily tasks others have lives and plans overturned with cancelled examinations, applying to university but not knowing if it will open or not, postponing weddings and prolonged separation from families and friends. Where we might complain about the inconvenience and tediousness of it all, others experience the falling apart of carefully constructed routines through which they cope with a stress-filled life.
For my family, we are pleased to have the children at home where we are supporting their learning through on-line lessons. We are fortunate to be able to keep functioning except for the feeling of isolation from friends and family. Working from home means different patterns of working and a proliferation of on-line meetings to maintain contact with colleagues and replace face to face engagements.
But what I am finding most disconcerting is the way in which social isolating goes against other deep impulses and desires. I have friends who have lost loved ones and what one most wants is to put an arm around them or place a hand on their shoulder; but we know that this would be irresponsible. In this time of crisis to be with our families and friends offering support but the most helpful thing I have been able to do is collect some shopping and leave outside their home for them to collect when I am at a safe distance. As people of faith we believe that isolation is one of societies’ most pressing problems and we know when we pool our resources, skills and insights we are stronger together – a value that CWM seeks to embody – but right now social isolation is the most necessary and safest thing. It can feel as if COVID19 has dismantled the habits of community and society that we know are best, but it has also promoted us to appreciate and cheer on those in health and key worker posts who for years have been unappreciated.
COVID19 plays into some of our deepest fears – being isolated from family and friends, the withdrawal of communication and ultimately our fear of death itself. But here is where our Christian faith comes into its own, when all the certainties we took for granted disappear. Christianity inspires faith that love is stronger than death and goodness more powerful than evil. Christianity is the trust that on the cross Jesus drew us into his outstretched arms and that in the resurrection God raised Jesus to life and demonstrating that love is stronger than death. The cross shows us that love includes terrible suffering, pain and even loss; but the resurrection shows that love conquers all. In this we discover that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Image: Hashim, an essential worker in the healthcare industry, greets his daughter through the closed door as he maintains social distance from his family as he works amid the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York, April 11, 2020. REUTERS/Joy Malone