We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
– USA for Africa 1985
Walking through the aisle of a popular Abuja supermarket last night, it felt almost like Christmas again.
But it wasn’t quite Christmas.
The carols that would usually boom out from ubiquitously placed speakers were missing.
Also missing were the trees and other Christmas decorations.
But above all, the cheer, the Christmas cheer that almost magically ignites the hope of a brighter tomorrow was gone.
Looking at the faces of my fellow shoppers, as they hurriedly dragged a bag of rice here and a pack of toilet rolls there, looking at the unusually long queues check out points – on a Thursday night in March – the difference was glaring.
Many of them, like the rest of us had just received the news of a possible shut down of shopping malls and the next step was to stock up.
As they were venting against a government that had allowed things to reach such an emergency level before acting decisively, the frustration was real.
It was like Christmas, but not quite Christmas.
It’s COVID-19 at work and none is finding joy in how lives are being affected as each day breaks.
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting time to be alive. Who could ever have imagined it? Who could ever even have dreamt that such a time would come, in this life time?
But here we are, and man, the butterfly that had, hitherto, always thought itself a bird is bent over, almost helpless and drowning in confusion.
Suddenly, the god of science doesn’t have the answer, yet.
COVID-19 is that kind of proverbial guest that comes bearing his own chair, in case the host claims he didn’t have chairs at home to entertain them
The economic pundits didn’t see it coming either.
As for our politicians, those ones who have for ages made us all into preys, they’re all hiding behind big phrases and hurriedly written long speeches, and hoping this is a bad dream from which they would soon wake up.
Alas, that’s not going to happen, not anytime soon, anyway.
COVID-19 is that kind of proverbial guest that comes bearing his own chair, in case the host claims he didn’t have chairs at home to entertain them.
Sure, the earth isn’t going to end tomorrow however, life as we know it will never be the same.
But it’s also a good thing.
It’s a good thing because many of us are finally seeing that everything we thought was our anchor could as well evaporate while we helplessly watch.
Whether it’s the price of crude oil that’s said to have tanked to its lowest in 18 years at $26 per barrel, or the stock market, everything is changing in ways we neither saw coming nor prepared for.
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic will change our world permanently but we can decide the direction of that change, for better or worse.
Times like these will always come bearing beautiful opportunities to be human beings again, and we have already seen some of these.
All over the world, governments and individuals are relearning the art of loving and giving.
People are giving compassion, empathy, tolerance, understanding and time.
People are giving so each may know that they are not alone at this time.
We are talking about the kind of giving that compels store owners, all over the world, to voluntarily reserve special hours where only the elderly and other most at risk of contracting severe cases of the disease could come and shop without fear of being infected.
We are talking about the kind of love that drove Father Giuseppe Corbari – pastor of the Saints Quirico and Giulitta parish in Robbiano, on the periphery of Milan in Italy’s Lombardy region, to fire his most creative juices.
You see, after the February 24 suspension of all public Masses in the region, this Italian priest still wanted to be with his 5,500 registered parishioners, even though they could no longer attend Mass.
He connected with his parishioners on the parish’s Telegram account and asked them to send him photos and selfies so he could tape them to the pews inside his parish.
The list can go on but the message is clear; that this crisis, this period, as hard as it seems, is yet another opportunity for humanity to redeem itself
He has up to 100 photos which he looks at every time he says the mass.
It is the kind of love that drove Becky Wass, a woman from Cornwall in the UK create a postcard with the message: “Hello! If you are self-isolating, I can help.”
The postcard has space for people to fill out their contact details and whether they would like help with shopping, posting mail or simply a phone call.
People print out the postcards fill out their information and drop in self-isolating neighbours’ letter boxes.
The list can go on but the message is clear; that this crisis, this period, as hard as it seems, is yet another opportunity for humanity to redeem itself.
And love, as always, offers us the greatest opportunity to do so.
Yes, COVID-19 may be at work but who knows, it might be Christmas after all.