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Living at the time of COVID-19

What a scary question to ask. But there are some people who, because of the coronavirus outbreak that remains unmitigated, have asked that question.
Asking the question may sound premature but may be normal for some people given the virus’ adverse effects. There is the unquestionably rising rate of unemployment that may lead to recession. There are aisles of empty store shelves and long queues at grocery store entrances. There are shortages of ventilators, PPEs (personal protective equipment), and other medical supplies. Daily, there are increasing coronavirus-related deaths worldwide. There is definitely a mix of fear and uncertainty in general.
No one really knows what will happen two or three months from now, or even during the next six months. Everything is on hold. The 2020 Olympics has just been postponed to next year. Many cities in the world are virtual ghost towns with their residents locked down in their respective homes. All this can be emotionally unsettling.
A friend recently asked me to check what the Bible says about the end of the world. So, out of curiosity, I did.
There are many quotes in the Bible about the end of the world. But what caught my attention is 2 Timothy 3: 1-5.
Here goes the quote: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
What Timothy wrote is actually happening. The world as we know it is teeming with people whom Timothy describes as lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. We are also now in times of difficulty.
But as I check my Facebook page and the global response to coronavirus pandemic, I read stories of people miraculously realizing for the first time how important our neighbors are. I am inspired to read so many doctors, nurses and other front line medical personnel risk their lives to save others. Where we live a woman in her golden years emailed our neighbors with offers of getting our groceries or getting our medicines from the drug store.
I am inspired to read so many people reaching out with offers of help to those in need, especially the vulnerable elderly. Individuals are tediously working to keep people safe and connected.
This tells me that the world is not about to end yet because I see goodness, generosity, concern, and love. The people that Timothy wants us to avoid at the end of time have been replaced by good people who have realized that in life what is important is to help those in need and to protect each other because life is so fragile. A pandemic disease such as the one we are experiencing now can snuff life out in an instant.
Ed Garcia, one of the framers of the present Philippine constitution, challenged everyone with the words, “We must encourage one and all to both be brave and be kind, to think of the other and find ways we can bridge the physical distance by our capacity to care and reach out by all kinds of means, real and virtual, shown perhaps in unheralded small acts of kindness.”
It makes my heart leap for joy as people have responded positively on a global scale to Garcia’s challenge. It gives me comfort that more and more people are beginning to feel the pain of others. I hope this “change of heart” continues long after this pandemic is totally eradicated.
What used to be our main concern like power, money, and pleasure is no longer as important as healing one’s body. Things that used to worry us now feel almost embarrassingly trivial.
Now we worry about our parents who, because of their age, are susceptible to coronavirus.
Now we worry about our children for they might get infected as they go about their daily lives.
Now we worry about our friends, our classmates, and our relatives who have already lost their jobs and may not be able to pay their monthly house mortgages.
Now we worry about the next patient in a hospital ward who will die tomorrow and who we might personally know as an acquaintance, a friend, or a relative.
Now we crave for human connection because we find ourselves quarantined in our own homes, isolated from the rest of our community.
Isn’t it strange that this coronavirus has made us become more human, more understanding of our and other people’s health conditions, and more sensitive to what really matters in one’s life?
I never thought that whenever my daughter and her husband would visit us they would stay inside their car as we talk for fear that we might contaminate each other.
I never thought that the day would come that I wouldn’t be able to hug my grandkids because a reassuring hug may put them at risk.
I never thought that one day I would hear Mass online without receiving Holy Communion. I don’t understand it, but probably God does.
I, who loves happy hour, riding my bike and playing basketball, never thought to see the day that I could no longer socialize with my friends for I might be fined or arrested or get infected.
A friend posted a message in Messenger that a former colleague from the University of the Philippines died of coronavirus. Her three children never had the chance to mourn and pay their last respects because their mom was immediately cremated. It’s sad that we can no longer mourn our dead because of Covid-19.
Now we are more conscious about our neighbors. Now we understand the plight of everyone, even those we do not know like the tricycle drivers, the security guards, the ordinary vendors, etc. because we need that human connection if we want to survive as a group.
Covid-19 is an issue for everyone. We have to stick together or perish together. We cannot remain uncaring during these uncertain and challenging times.
In his article that appears in CBS News recently, Lee Cowan put it beautifully, “For anyone wanting a re-set to get back to what matters most – the heart of the human condition – this may be that moment … a test to see if love really does conquer all.”
At the end, love will conquer everything. Love will win.