Days ago, I woke up from sleep at an unusual time – a time I would typically be enjoying the fifth gear of my sleep. Wanting to find something useful to do, since sleep had pulled a fast one on me and had decided to elude me, I turned on the TV. I kept scanning through the channels until the search landed on TBN. The presenter announced an interview with Bishop T. D Jakes that was going to be aired. I stayed glued to watch. I loved every bit of it but there was one thing he said that has stayed with me and has kept me thinking.
He said, as humans, we have always been in a time of crisis but didn’t realise it until the COVID-19 pandemic broke out – there was so much hostility existing in relation to race, gender, among others at both national and global levels. He added that we were headed the wrong route and so the virus has become pretty much a positive disruption, taking us back to humanity. Quite profound and worth pondering over, huh? It also sounds controversial, but, believe you me, there is veracity in that statement.
Truly, COVID-19 has taken us back to humanity. Amidst the unpleasant experience we are met with, we have also seen a lot of good coming out of this crisis within the period. There have been many stories I have heard that have kept me very hopeful and I believe is making us see that life can, indeed, be well lived, should we all become one another’s keeper. Our neighbours, colleagues, family members and friends have always had needs they could not satisfy, due to myriad of reasons. Nonetheless, we had hardly ever noticed or simply turned a blind eye to them, when we could have lent a helping hand. Could it be that we had been too much on the move to notice the needs around us? Maybe so. But life had a way of slowing us down so we could pause for a while to look out for one another and care, maybe just a little bit. It slowed us down so we could see all the sufferings around us and find the need to care.
There are many who have been struggling to put food on the table, let alone afford to buy their families comfortable and decent clothing and footwear. And, fact is, they have always been with us. I read a story about a woman in Mombasa, Kenya, who decided to boil stones for her children. Yes, stones! “Who eats stones?”, you may ask. Sure, the woman knows nobody can eat stones, but she did that to make her children believe that she was cooking a meal for them. She could not stand the sorrowful, heart-wrenching cries from her famished children. At least, she could have something to tell them, especially the younger one, if they asked for food. She knew that after waiting for long to get the “food” cooked, the children would likely fall asleep. I bet stones can never get cooked; not even if you put them on fire for eternity.
Clearly, the hardest thing this woman, who happens to be a widow, could do for her family is to feed them! How heart-breaking! Where can a woman, who earned a living by going to people’s homes to do their laundry, get money to buy food for her family when she had been rendered helpless because of the health crisis we find ourselves in? But the hard times have been dowsed for her, somehow. A good neighbour came through and rallied support for her through the media – a heart-warming turn around.
In my writing group, there was a day we were sharing thoughts on how people have become very supportive of one another in these trying times. A colleague recounted how her neighbour woke up one morning to see manure at her doorstep – something she was in dire need of for her garden. Apparently, she had jokingly put up a post on social media about how much she needed manure for her garden. A kind neighbour chanced on the post and decided to share what she had with her. And rather remarkably, she does not even know which of her neighbours did that act of kindness. That neighbour is an unsung hero or heroine, hiding in his or her corner and silently impacting her world positively. Beautiful! I have also heard a story about how someone’s neighbour went to do grocery shopping for her, without request to do so. The beneficiary of this kind gesture is a single mother and her neighbour knew how risky it would be for her to take her children to the mall or safely leave the children at home and go shopping. Her neighbour decided to shop for every essential food item she thought she would need to feed her family. How nice!
Then is a news story I watched about a tenant whose landlord has been cooking hot meals for him every day, ever since the pandemic broke out in their country. This tenant is a health worker and so spends the better part of his days at the hospital. For all the sacrifices he makes to care for the sick in times like this, leaving home early in the morning and returning late, his landlord has taken up the responsibility of cooking hot meals for him after hard, stressful days at work. How thoughtful!
The fellow-feeling laden stories are countless. There are those that have come into the limelight and there many more that are being done wordlessly in homes, communities, towns, cities and countries. Individuals, churches, corporations, agencies, governments and many others are doing so much to keep us all afloat in these trying times. Numerous organisations are giving out food parcels to the vulnerable, others are finding ways to keep children engaged, mentally active and cheerful in these uncertain times. Yes, children are trying so hard to make meaning of this current situation and some good souls out there are helping them cope. Last Saturday, my mentor sent me a video of Wes Tank, a musician, who has rapped Dr Seuss’ rhyme, Fox in Sox over a Dr Dre beat. It is not only that one he has creatively put together for the enjoyment of children and of course, lovers of Dr Dre rhythms, he has other nice collections of other rhymes on other beats too (ha ha!). What a nice way to have fun and at the same time learn a rhyme or two!
There are wonderful authors, academics and storytellers who are keeping children educationally entertained through various means. Some have created mobile applications with collections of children stories, others have found fun ways to narrate children stories and are sharing them on various platforms accessible to children, so the young ones can be intellectually stimulated and, at the same time, stay joyful. Talk of edutainment and creativity par excellence!
Children are also doing so many pleasant things and bringing light and hope to our hearts. There are those who are writing, drawing and using other creative means to share uplifting messages with the elderly, healthcare workers and other people who are at the combat zone of this battle we all must fight. There is nothing like a child expressing appreciation and reassuring you that all will be well soon. Lots of children are also helping with household chores, including taking care of younger siblings and helping parents prepare family meals.
I have also been at the receiving end of some good deeds, you know. I have had the rare experience of a family deciding that they would shop for me any time I need groceries. This family gives me a call or sends me a message asking for my grocery list whenever they are going to shop for groceries. The last message I had from them was: “Cool. But please don’t wait to ask if you need anything”. How pleasant!
I can go on and on. The phone calls from father or mother to son or daughter, brother to sister, grandchildren to grandparents; the text messages to one another to check if everything is alright are all gestures of love. How do you feel when you get a call from someone just checking on you in these times? Many people are showing up for others in different ways and it gives us hope. It also tells us that this is what we were made for – love. As we look beyond political lines and socio-cultural differences, there is only one thing I can see bringing us back to humanity – love. Yes, it can only be love, nothing else.
About the writer:
Theodora is a lecturer at UPSA and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Rhodes University, SA