April 2020

The best of times and the worst of times

Well, let’s start with the worst. This is manifestly a time of anxiety, fear, illness and dispiritedness. There are many people who are having to isolate themselves until the middle of June: there are many people who face financial trouble: there are many who are unable to see their loved ones. The list goes on. And, of course, we have seen the dark side of human nature in all of this. In a country where there is no shortage of food and household products, to see people clearing shelves in supermarkets of things that everybody needs has been ineffably depressing. Selfishness is not just an unattractive trait; it is a self-destructive one, as the more you focus your attention just on your own needs, the narrower the boundaries of your world become. 

But what about the best? I think it has been really heartening to see the way in which people are caring for each other practically and personally. People are going out of their way to help those who cannot shop or get other services. Local businesses are being really helpful about arranging deliveries. And people are obviously on the look-out for those who may be worried or lonely. We could well be in for the long haul, so it would be wonderful if those signs of basic human goodness were to grow and spread.

I am one of those annoying people who think it important, whenever something dreadful happens, to find something positive out of it. Yes, we have seen the dark side of human nature, but we have seen the bright side as well, and if, once this is all over - and it will sometime be over - that bright side were to have become a much stronger part of our communal nature, that would be brilliant. It would also be good if those struggling to live in a house bulging with toilet paper and dried pasta might just ask themselves whether, if they are prepared to put themselves through all of that in order to escape a virus, they might just be a little more sympathetic to those who have to become refugees from their own countries in order to escape war, terrorism, famine and tyranny.

But let us all use this opportunity - terrible though it is - to show compassion for our neighbours, and not let the enclosing walls of our own houses narrow our vision of our world and its people. It is golden chance to make the world a better place.

And, if you are getting weary of carolling ‘Happy Birthday to you’ umpteen times every day, try reciting the Lord’s Prayer instead. It takes the same time and is spiritually much more efficacious.