To call these “challenging times” as we have seen so often lately, from newspaper columns and company annoucements to emails between colleagues, somehow lessens the stark reality of what is really going on. Sometimes, that’s intentional; an effort to put aside the one news story dominating the world, and try to return to a brief moment of reality. Sometimes, it’s acknowledging the crisis while trying to remain calm, or even optimistic. Sometimes, it’s because we don’t really know what else to say.
We cannot downplay the dangers COVID-19 present to humanity, and those who do so, are prone to hurting themselves and those around them, if not so many more. We also cannot dismiss easily the thousands of souls lost to this virus, over 17,000 at the time of writing. Similarly, we should not forget that over 100,000 confirmed cases have recovered, which shows that while avoidance is a better option where possible, there is still hope in the case of a positive diagnosis.
At the same time, others are still struggling to hope in face of uncertainty. For those trying to avoid this Coronavirus and simply continue with their daily lives (albeit with social distancing and hand washing) there are hundreds of thousands who have had their working hours reduced, or lost entirely. The Irish government may be scrambling to provide welfare payments for those affected, banks and credit unions – despite recent agreements – are not making things straight-forward for customers wishing to pause loan repayments, going by both personal experience and listening to those who’ve recounted similar tales on radio in recent days. Those who’ve been impacted financially need to be supported, not just by the State, but by banks and other financial institutions, as well as landlords and property agencies, to make sure that this pandemic does not cost anyone their homes and livelihoods.
Still, there are strange moments of good that have come from the last few weeks. Pollution has had a chance to clear in many places around the world, from Italy to India and China, because of reduced human activity. Locally, thousands of people have signed up to volunteer in their communities to support those in need, while 60,000 people have signed up to help Ireland’s health service in combatting the pandemic. These are only a few examples, but again, they represent hope in a time of adversity.
On a political level, where parties in Ireland were desperately trying to form coalitions after the results of our general election in February, snapping at one another about who had the best mandate for change or governance, we now see a united effort to protect and support the people of Ireland. While this country still needs to see a 33rd Dáil Éireann formed, this crisis is a much bigger problem, and therefore health and social protection takes centre stage. Despite policy differences, politicians now have a common goal: stop pontificating or attacking old enemies, and take action that benefits us all.
That is what I wish to do with this small, insignificant blog post: Ask you to take action. That can be nothing more than calling an elderly relation or neighbour, and asking if they need anything from the shops. It can be checking out localsupport.ie to see how you can help others who may be too weak, sick, vulnerable, or simply too anxious to go outside. It can be by reminding others to keep a safe distance from their friends, colleagues, or family, or washing their hands properly. It can be by smiling to someone you pass by on the street, and not forgetting that we’re all vulnerable to this, and in solidarity with each other because of it.
You can take action by remembering to care.