We have all watched those movies, you know the one where disaster strikes and the world as we know it changes overnight. We’ve watched in disbelief as people carry on their daily routine, catching the bus, eating the ice cream while behind them a wall of water is crashing into the city, wiping out buildings and sweeping cars aside like dust balls from beneath the sofa. We sat and silently wondered how they could not see that coming. But the truth of it is, we know what’s coming because the movie title gave it away.
As I walk through the streets of town on my way back to the office after getting my morning coffee, it struck me, the irony of the scene playing in my head – I was the ‘seemingly’ nonchalant thespian staggering across this global stage we all are now reluctantly finding ourselves in.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a quiet that is unsettling, there is a stillness that does not compute on what should be a bustling cityscape. People are distancing themselves from work, from friends, from each other on the streets and ‘normal’ social behaviour is being reshaped, redefined. An invisible wall of water is closing in around us and we are all trying desperately not to let it envelop our psyche.
Here is the thing, and it’s a big one so hear me out.
The nature of the human experience in its essence is to put a face to an experience, a visual impact that drives home the message or the lesson to be learnt. Poverty has a face, HIV Aids, has a face, greed has a face, we are all familiar with what these things look like. The coronavirus, COVID-19 does not! Those that are being shown to people are all seemingly healthy looking individuals. Despite testing positive, they look just like you and me, like your neighbour, like your colleagues – and therein, I believe is the greatest danger of all.
I have started to see it creep across the face of the person standing next to me in the lift, or when the lovely lady who normally greets me at the bus station looked for another seat instead of sitting next to me. I sense that as many of you read this you may feel the same sense of foreboding that I did when this came to me. But here is the thing, and it is equally, if not greater than the last thing.
I am, you are, your neighbour is, and so is your colleague – the face of COVID-19. Not because we fear it, or have it or may have been exposed to it, but because the image that will drive home the greatest message, or lesson learnt during this, and I will use the term on everyone’s lips – unprecedented – time we find ourselves in should be one that reveals our truest capability as humanity. It is our ability to care about the well-being others. It is our ability to look past the possible, the probable and even the likely and still reach out to the next person, because when someone looks at me in fear, I don’t want to be their mirror.
Within these, the deepest depths of foreboding I am convinced that time has slowed down, not the proverbial tic-toking of the clock, but in the quietness within. It feels as if the earth has held its breath and we are all waiting to exhale. We are being gifted time, to reconnect to self and others and to remember. It is when we remember that we will recognise that the facelessness of this experience was not there to create fear, but was meant to reconnect us.