As the bells chimed to bring in 2020, no-one could have imagined how the New Year was about to unfold. For many people what happens at the other side of the world has no direct bearing on their everyday lives but this was not the case with Covid-19 and within a matter of a few short weeks its threat had permeated all sectors of society around the globe.
What we have now as standard are strict guidelines, put in place in order to protect ourselves, the sick and the vulnerable, and life as we know it has changed but these sudden adjustments, albeit arguably obtrusive at times, have brought about some unexpected benefits too.
For the first time in what seems like forever, people of all ages have something in common; their battle to stay safe and well and to protect those they love from harm. What we are seeing now is the milk of human kindness, largely absent for so long, coursing out into the places where it’s needed the most.
When lockdown first began and any semblance of normal social contact began to dissipate, the threat of loneliness and isolation, already a stain on our society, looked set to pervade ever further. As local community centres and places of worship were forced to close their doors, these havens, often a hive of activity for older people, quickly reassessed their workplans and embarked upon community engagement programmes which served to fulfil the commitment at the very heart of their work ethos.
Faith groups from varying religious affiliations, helped by an army of volunteers, have delivered meals, shopping and prescriptions all over the country unstinting in their efforts to ensure that people’s basic needs are being met; their hard work and commitment needing no further gratification than a wave, a smile and a promise that they are in people’s prayers.
In addition to this unified effort, and with the media’s gaze concentrated elsewhere, the relationship between young and old, so often a headline of dissent from reality, has been left alone to flourish. Voluntary groups have grown all over social media and younger people, escaping the confines of both the classroom and lockdown, have been doing their bit for their local communities whilst taking comfort from the fact that their peers are replicating similar efforts for their own loved ones elsewhere.
As if this wasn’t enough, throughout all of this each individual has had to adopt their own way of coping, drawing on what they believe in to see them through. Faith, by its very definition, outlines an inherent belief in something whether it be religious, spiritual or otherwise and it would be a fairly easy assumption to make that in our helplessness to do more to quell the rising figures of those succumbing to the virus it may well prove difficult to have faith in anything at all. But when drawing on this assumption, one question we must ask ourselves is this: How often during this strange and unsettling time have we heard the phrases “Pray for our key workers and the NHS” or “I hope that you and your family are staying safe and well?” In many ways, without our even realising it and in the very language that we use, we still continue to draw inspiration from the belief that by placing our faith in those who surround us, this will be the driving force that will guide us through.
So, if nothing else, this uncertain period in our lives has to some extent made many of us realise that it’s not what we have, it’s who we have and this commitment to ensuring those less fortunate, the lonely and the vulnerable are respected and cared for in the manner which they wholly deserve should serve as a valuable lesson to us all, leaving behind the legacy of a just and more equal society for all.
Eileen Cawley, Scottish Pensioners’ Forum
5 October 2020