By Yvonne Sam
Let’s hear it for COVID 19, the virus that, firstly, turned an entire world into a tail-spin, and then, completely upside-down. Now, it has stirred even greater anxiety and possesses the potential to do far more damage to the current life we are living, and for a longer period of time.
The question on everyone’s mind, or frozen between their lips, is, “What happened to our world?” — as schools, colleges, universities, churches, day-care centers, restaurants, barber shops and other establishments are shuttered, in order to diminish opportunities for people to spread or contract the virus.
While the wide and rapid proliferation of a virus, like COVID 19, may be unprecedented in our lifetime, let it be known that our ancestors experienced a similarly unparalleled pandemic. Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, the so-called “Spanish flu” devastated the globe, infecting one third of the world’s population, ultimately killing at least 50 million people in its wake, more than the entire First World War — among them 3,300 Albertans and 675,000 people in the United States. www.influenzaarchive.org/cities/city-baltimore.html
This current pandemic now also offers us a chance to consider what matters most in our nation, and also in our individual lives. We are being told to remain indoors, refrain from travelling, avoid restaurants and bars and crowds of more than 10 people. Some have been ordered to work from home. Others have been laid off or have had their working hours drastically reduced. Entertainment is now seemingly limited to the few things worth watching on television.
Listen up! Rather than cry and deny or vent and lament — and there is plenty to lament — how about looking on it as an opportunity? During Lent some people forego certain things to practice self-discipline and display their devotion to God. Although there is a big difference between willingly giving up something and being forced to give up many things, and while there is a huge difference between a religious practice and an infectious virus, basically the precept remains the same.
What are you now forsaking that you could do without? Better put, or more plainly stated, what are you now focusing on that did not get your attention, before the coronavirus? Does being compelled to remain indoors and spend more time with your spouse/partner and children (who are also home from school) offer an opportunity, or is it considered a burden?
What about teaching your older children the simple tricks of home economics, the things they need to know, as they older grow. Learning how to cook without having to consult a book.
If you are a workaholic, who often bring home work from the office, in the pursuit of money and material things, pray tell, what opportunities does this forced confinement offer and will you take advantage of them? Has the making of money been your primary goal? Are you making less money, because you are not working as much, or maybe at all? Material things never fully satisfy, and yet many of us continue to pursue them, as if they do. Do you have to rearrange your priorities? How often did you even think about washing your hands before the virus?
Presidents have been calling for nations to pray that God might remove the threat of the coronavirus and protect them all. President Trump declared Sunday, March 15th as a National Day of Prayer. Other presidents have also made a call to prayer in similar crises — one thinks of Franklin Roosevelt’s call to prayer on D-Day, June 6, 1944 —when the power of government seemed insufficient to overcome a serious challenge. www.fdrlibrary.org/d-day
Could this pandemic provide a similar opportunity for those, so predisposed, to seek a closer relationship with the Higher Power (God), who made us all, as President Abraham Lincoln stated in his proclamation for a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer in the midst of the Civil War. www.historyplace.com/lincoln/proc-3.htm.
The President set the first Thursday in August 1864, as a day to pray for a speedy end to the war. However, it would be another eight months before that prayer was answered. It is apparent that the government, regardless of country, and despite massive efforts on the ground, aimed at curbing the spread, yet remain powerless in guaranteeing civic safety.
When the coronavirus is no longer a threat, will you be returning to your old ways and habits?
Will you return to focusing on money, status, work and material things, or has this pandemic taught you a lesson or two, about what matters most.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.