Back in March, when the coronavirus was claiming its first lives in our country, when supermarket shelves lay empty as folks greedily stockpiled, when sanitizer and masks were hoarded by those not on the front line; I worried for our country. Worried we were losing our humanity, our kindness, our compassion. There was a time back then, that I genuinely feared that people would forget about the collective, forget about community, forget about everyone else but them. And instead think only of their, and their families, survival. And it seemed oh so very very scary. But gradually, over the days and weeks that followed, the helpers emerged. The ones who ran towards the danger, or always put others first, or assisted those in need. The helpers who wanted to battle the virus as a team, all together, a united front. And that’s when I felt calmer, happier, relieved. The virus hadn’t killed humanity after all.
I first heard this quote, a few years back, after a terrorist attack in London. At the time, like many others in the UK, my head pounded with dread and fear and apprehension for the future, and my heart weighed heavy with sadness. I grieved not just for the victims, but for the end of my innocence. Our once safe country now seemed a scary place, evidently home to evil. It smashed my happy bubble.
But then gradually, over time, the stories of the helpers emerged. The ones that had run to save the injured, the ones that had opened their locked doors to provide a safe haven for fleeing folks, the ones that had put themselves in danger to stop the perpetrators. And it was these examples of compassion and kindness and altruism that gave me hope for our collective future. There were more people trying to help, than trying to destroy our country. The famous quote by Fred Rogers -“Look for the helpers, you will always find people helping,”- really resonated. And so, ever since, during times of great distress, I look for the shining hearts, the open arms, the halos. I seek out the news stories of those wonderful helpers. It’s a reminder that others want to live in the same kind world that I do. That humanity carries on.
And wonderfully, happily, thankfully, the coronavirus crisis has shown once again, that people want to help. The doctors and nurses who walked through the hospital doors each day, despite having inadequate protection; putting other’s lives before their own. The bin men and shop keepers and delivery drivers and postmen who left the house and went to work as normal on that first day of lockdown, whilst the rest of us cowed behind our closed doors. Folks who immediately volunteered to deliver food or run errands or be a friendly caller for folks confined to their homes. The army driving ambulances, the teachers in full classrooms of key worker’s children, the carers continuing to look after the most vulnerable.
On a personal level, I too have received much kindness and love over these recent months. The butcher and farm shop and brewery who brought their fares to my door as I was shielding. The nurse who agreed to come to my home so I didn’t have to attend the local surgery. The villagers who answered my Facebook pleas for help whenever I needed something posting or picking up. And one particularly wonderful neighbour, who really looked out for Phil and I. Collecting my medicines, posting mail, printing off documents on her printer, continually offering help… even dropping by little presents. It is these kind hearts that helped us survive these past few months.
For a while, when we were deep into lockdown, the world seemed to be full of love. Humanity was at its peak. With time to reflect on what was really important, we looked at those shining examples of kindness and compassion, and we celebrated them. For the first time, we idolized the selfless, we admired the kind, we aspired to be as brave as the key workers. And we showed our support and love and gratitude by clapping on our doorsteps each Thursday evening, putting rainbows in our windows, and making banners of thankfulness. Hopefully this crisis will have had a lasting impact on people, hopefully a kinder, more thoughtful world will emerge from the ashes of this virus, hopefully kindness will continue to be revered. Only time will tell.