Unprecedented? Or same old, same old…?
There is nothing else for most of us to think about than the strange and unusual circumstances forced on us by the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. The shock at the speed with which it has gone from being nothing at all to basically closing down the world as we know it and sending the global economy into freefall is palpable. The fear, uncertainty and in many cases, suffering, are very real.
“We have never been this way before…” is the often-heard declaration before ever more previously unimaginable measures are put in place to protect and to rescue society from its new invisible enemy.
Perhaps it’s true, that many have never been this way before. Sadly, for much of the world the impact of this disease is not new, or unheard of. It is just the latest chapter in a spiral of challenge and hardship that more than interrupting life, actually defines it for so many.
In 2008 when the worldwide financial crash took place, we were living in Zambia. We relied on charitable donations for our own personal support and for the work we were doing. Suddenly those donations started to decrease. As businesses collapsed and unemployment took hold, we felt the pinch. We spent time explaining it to people as if it was something brand new (which to us it was). People listened with patience as I explained we may not have the freedom we once had, or the resources we hoped for, for future projects.
After some time, when I thought I had explained what we were all learning for the first time, one of our team, a very dear friend of ours, simply laughed and said, “In Zambia we’ve always had financial crisis”.
What was brand new, and unprecedented to me was just more of what people had learned to live with over many years. My hope that it would be a short-lived crisis, was tempered by the fact that they had learned to meet constant hardship with resilience and grace.
For us in the west, there has always got to be a solution, or someone to blame, or an exit strategy. We don’t know how to cope with situations that can’t be cured by the protestant work ethic, or a plan and a strategy. The idea that we simply can’t fix some things is a nightmare scenario. Yet this is what COVID-19 presents us. We can’t plan it away, work it away, or pay it away.
During that same period, we met circumstances we really weren’t prepared for. A period of time when we had no cash, no access to cash and no obvious solution. On one particular day, all we could do was make a list of the basic things we needed, but were unable to buy. That morning, the friend I mentioned above and her sister, came to our house with shopping bags full of the very things we needed.
They were gracious enough not just to shake their heads at our ignorance of real hardship, but to help us in the midst of their own poverty. To invite us into their world, where it doesn’t pay to worry, to panic, and to believe we are the only solution to our problems.
They showed us something which I believe is treasure even for these times.
We are certainly in it together, but some of us are getting into it a lot later than others. There is an awful lot we can learn from those for whom these times are not unprecedented.
Our aim in CiCA UK, is to continue to use the resources we have, and can raise, to help as many as possible, but the flow of help is not one way. The emotional, practical and spiritual resources we need to progress in this crisis are stored up in what might otherwise be called ‘poor’ communities. Amongst those who have trod this path many times, and will continue to do so long after the threat of COVID -19 has subsided. For many ‘back to normal’ doesn’t have quite the same appeal as it might have to us at the moment. However, they will go ‘back to normal’ and continue to fight through life with energy, laughter and vigour.
I hope that our ‘back to normal’ will be coloured with the discovery that ‘uncertain’, ‘insecure’, ‘out of control’ are not the end of the world, but truly connect us with the vast majority of the world’s population.