Some years ago a kale plant in my garden self-seeded and I found two stray plants growing alongside roses in container pots in the kitchen yard. Side by side they have flourished. I left the kale alone as they got woodier by the year, rarely harvesting the leaves and intending to remove them altogether but not getting round to doing so. I took them for granted.
My casual attitude changed when the signs of an imminent Coronavirus crisis began to show. It was clear that the availability and choice of food would become limited over months of shortages generally, and that the opportunities to be shopping freely would be gone. For the first time, probably, since the last world war food would be cherished and wasting food frowned upon, and I looked at the ragged kale in my rose pots with new affection and gratitude. I picked some leaves carefully to ensure I left others to grow, and ate them thankfully.
Already among many there is a new awareness of what matters, and a heartening sense of resilience and community spirit. For people living in isolation alone and families with young children it is particularly hard as weeks possibly months of social denial lie ahead, and so the spontaneous efforts made by fitness instructors, yoga teachers, chess teachers and others to provide free classes online to keep us fit and mentally occupied is wonderful. The inventiveness and ingenuity of people is impressive as I read about virtual cocktail parties and coffee mornings, using social media to keep in group touch and also as a means of offering and receiving help. The quiet kindness of people is in luminous display as the GoodSam volunteer numbers continue to rise far beyond the original target and local food shops and restaurants become delivery services for their communities.
Society is becoming simpler and is adapting for survival and to help. Bureaucracy and rule books are being abandoned: hospitals have transformed themselves to adapt to the Coronavirus crisis and decisions that would have taken months are made in minutes, and new hospitals are being built in days. Money, at last, is the last consideration as the priority to save lives and help the new jobless is paramount. The day of reckoning is far away, and our world will be so different by then that the old assumptions will be obsolete. It really will be a new world.
It is ironic that the real global crisis that is climate change could have been addressed with the same sense of urgency and wartime spirit, companies changing production lines to develop effective renewables and money invested liberally in changing how we live quickly and importantly. As emissions drop dramatically because of the Coronavirus crisis, however, the planet is being helped despite our procrastination. It did not have to be this way.
While much good is coming from our changing values and community awareness, there is much pain too. As we adapt to this new world, in every moment there is loss and grief, the pain of not being able to say good bye, the enormous weariness of those on the front line who cry with exhaustion and face death all the time, also the enormous responsibility of leaders whom we trust to do what is right.
It is easy to think of ourselves at this time, but it would be wrong to forget all those others who are very directly touched by these great events. Even if we are cut off in our homes for now, let us remember them with prayer and great gratitude for what they give and how they teach. We might ask ourselves, meanwhile, what we give and how we teach, for in our own way we do so all the time.