There has to be a silver lining amidst the chaos caused by COVID-19, there just has to be. I’ve been racking my mind thinking about the possible good outcomes from this pandemic. The truth is, in the past month we have all been reassured that for most of our governments, human life matters more than money. In country after country all over the world, governments are choosing to shut down and lose revenue instead of risking citizens’ lives by insisting on remaining open. I am cynical about the level of care shown by governments to its citizens but this period has proven me wrong. In case after case when the decision has arisen whether to choose human life or a thriving economy, governments have chosen human life. It has been amazing to witness how far people are willing to extend themselves at great personal risk to themselves in order to serve and save human life.
Daily we have supermarket workers who wake up at the crack of dawn and head out to the workplace in order to ensure that citizens still have food on the table. Take a minute to appreciate how frightening it must be to be a cashier during this time. These workers risk their lives for us and they don’t get near enough praise. Everyone is keen to dole their praise on health workers, everyone seems to worry about the personal protective equipment for health workers, but no one seems to realise how supermarket employees are exposed daily to a mostly untested population. If all supermarket workers decided to stay home and not work, the fabric of society would unravel. No one is more ready to revolt than a hungry person. For keeping our stomachs full, we thank the people who make sure that food makes its way to our tables. From the farmers, to the packers, to the transporters, to the merchandisers, we are truly grateful.
I spoke to a friend of mine who is a casualty doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in the country. She spoke of how her weekends at work are not the same since the outbreak of the virus. She spoke of how she is seeing less trauma caused by stabbings, car accidents and gun violence. She spoke of how this past weekend, there were plenty of moments where she could afford to take her tea break without risking a human life. Easter is usually the time of year where South Africa experiences the biggest toll of road accident deaths. This year, because of the pandemic, things were different. Because there weren’t been pilgrimages to holy sites in order to celebrate the Easter weekend, we have experienced a fraction of the number of road accident deaths compared to previous years. There are simply less people on the roads, which greatly reduces the chances of speeding, drunken driving, road rage and accidents.
On a personal level, the time away from school and the office has allowed families the opportunity to cement relationships. The pandemic also provided people with clarity about who matters and who doesn’t. There was a period of two days before the announcement of the shutdown and the actual shutdown. In those two days, people made decisions about who they were going to be spending the lockdown with. The decision to go to a lover or to your parents’ became an affirmation about how you truly felt and who you wanted to see next to you if the world ended.
On social media people have been using this time to expose their talents. I promise you watching Facebook over the past three weeks has been like watching a giant online episode of “Lockdown’s Got Talent”. I have discovered friends who sing, who bake, who dance and everyone has been taking a camera and recording themselves, sharing these talents with us. Some of it has been amazing.
There have been positives for families in terms of quality time spent. Parents who work away from home often leave at the crack of dawn for long commutes and only return at night. This has been an opportunity for families to connect without the pressures of the rat race. Fathers who are often too busy might be finding out about their children’s interests and abilities. Couples might rekindle the romance. I have a friend who is an essential worker who has a 5-month-old baby. Since crèches have closed, her husband, a non-essential worker, has been forced to be in charge of the day-to-day care of the baby. It is amazing how close father and son have become. The man has stepped up and is now able to puree baby food, change a nappy, and keep the infant entertained all day. He has realised that nurturing is not only a woman’s task and the wife, seeing him in this new light, has fallen deeper in love with him.
I have gotten to know my girls better since they have been home more. I have learned that my eldest daughter has a natural flair for choreography. She is a born entertainer. This has made me rethink the kind of high school I will enrol her in. She has always struggled with academics being in her current highly academic school. I know now that she will be much happier at the National School of the Arts.
There is no doubt that there have been many challenges during this period of lockdown. But let’s all take a second to think about the silver lining. There has to be some good that we can take out of this time. In these trying times there is a universal realisation that we can all draw strength from each other and manage to unite in fighting the virus while being apart in our own homes.
Read about how to take care of your mental health during lockdown here.
Tell us: What has this period of lockdown taught you?