Lessons from COVID-19
While most of the cases (about ninety percent) experience a mild condition, the pandemic is rapidly evolving and it seems the only way to break the chain of transmission and bring an end to this global issue is through the concept of social distancing,(among other things) about which a lot of things have been said.
Personally, this has been a stressful time for our family but not without lessons learnt or perhaps I should say, it has highlighted for me some important life lessons which I would like to share with you.
One is a very significant number. The significance of the individual is often forgotten in our culture of mass-marketed products, flowing with popular opinion and particularly in a seemingly vastly populated world; sometimes we forget the importance and impact of an individual. But COVID-19 has reminded us— when a co-worker is suspected to be infected, you are affected, if you were on the same plane with an individual whose name you do not even know, that person becomes important because somehow, the fate of an entire community may very well rest on the actions or inactions of that one seemingly insignificant fellow.
So, what is the lesson? Simply this, “every individual counts for something, in fact an individual counts for much, consequently they should be treated with dignity, consideration and worth.”
John Maxwell once said, "one is too small a number to achieve greatness.” Although this statement may seem to contradict what I said before, in actual fact it buttresses it— for if an individual is significant, then all individuals are all significant! Imagine then how much good a team of significant individuals can achieve! The importance of connectedness is underscored in the popular story of the tower of Babel where God affirms that a united people are an unstoppable people.
In this very trying times, we will do well to remember the words of Lyndon Johnson, a US President of yesteryears who said, “There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.” We all must do the right thing if we want to see an end to this pandemic, governments must do the right things, the people must also do the right things and this is not the time to bicker and quibble over our political differences, personal tastes or philosophies; rather we need to get the right information and together, act on that information.
So, the lesson here is clear, “team work always trumps soldiering it on all alone.”
Most people readily agree that it is important to relate with people and they laud the superiority of teamwork over doing it all alone; but then we often like to work with some particular kind of people whom we think are the proper kind of people. Perhaps subconsciously we have these boxes we tick before we let people into our network. Most people do not do this out of spite, we just simply enjoy the company of people who look like us, think like us, eat the kinds of food we love and so on.
Well, (no) thanks to COVID-19, we are learning that there are no different networks but all of humanity is one giant network and we are all in the same sinking ship. I am sure the statistics will confirm it but COVID-19 ain’t no respectable person (if you are tush, you will say, respecter of persons).
John Donne was right, as right as one can be when death is staring one in the face—
No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
any mans death diminishes me,
any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
(Don’t mind the English, it’s 17th century)
Do you see? A little clod, seemingly insignificant is as much a part of Europe as a massive promontory or a lordly estate.
In fact, this is one of the truths the Christian message proclaims, that because of the work of Christ on behalf of all humanity, the walls that divide us are broken, the racial walls, gender walls, socioeconomic walls, etc. are broken and we all stand as we were made to stand, brothers and sisters co-equal, with same privileges and rights before God.
Lesson? I am involved in mankind. You are involved in mankind. We are involved in humanity. All of us are a part of the whole.
Social connectedness is an essential we often take for granted. Particularly, the physical aspects of our human interactions; I think only poets and newlyweds understand the worth of a hug, a kiss, a cuddle or a mere holding of hands. Rushed as we are, trying to earn a living, we sometimes do these things perfunctorily or like they are chores.
These “Corona-days”, no one is going to shake you. No friendly hug from anyone, in fact we have to keep a respectable distance from one another; and perhaps some of us are missing the days when we carelessly slapped backs, huddled together on a couch to watch movies, bear hugged, how with hot, sweaty bodies we danced all night long and how we just about enjoyed all the tactile stimulations life has to offer.
Mandated as we are to limit physical interaction, a room away even in the same apartment can feel as far away as another continent, and the wonders of technology do not even begin to mollify the realities of that.
Well, here the lesson is coloured with a tinge of nostalgia, “we must take time to really enjoy the seemingly little things, for we may one day look back and realise that they were really the big things.”
While we are talking about technology, we have seen that internet particularly is not a luxury but an essential part of our lives. A lot of people have been able to keep their jobs, work from home and continue living their lives as best they can because of the technological advances of our time and we are grateful for that.
The impact of technology in the field of healthcare cannot be overemphasized; better and faster diagnosis, improved treatments, the provision of more patient-centered care and even a more satisfying experience for both the health care provider and the client are some of the improvements technology has brought into the health care industry.
However in this COVID-19 pandemic, we are finding out that what we have available is not enough to cater for people who need treatment and care— faster and yet reliable diagnostic modalities, digital epidemiological tools, personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, ventilators including other types of medical supplies and equipment needed to protect the frontliners and to treat the sick need to be provided and dispatched as soon as possible.
Suicide has been defined as an act with a fatal outcome, deliberately initiated and performed in the knowledge or expectation of that fatal outcome; it has also been shown that at least two-thirds of people who died by suicide expressed ideas of taking their own life and more than one-third showed clear intentions of taking their own life.
The lesson here is clear— “ultimately, everyone loves life; anything that makes them say or act otherwise is an emergency and must be treated as such.”
Consequently, irrespective of the circumstances of a person’s life, if we hear them talking about death or the futility of life or a sense of hopelessness, that must be taken seriously. We must not explain it away by saying it is because of the circumstances, rather we must seek help as fast as possible.
When times are hard, people tend to try all sorts of things as desperate times they say call for desperate measures. I have seen over the weeks, since the COVID-19 “became a serious something” all sorts of messages flying around on social media. One video I cannot seem to forget is about a lady who made a public announcement about the need to keep our hands away from the organs on our face and in the same breath, went ahead and touched her mouth!
Well, I am not exempt too and I think a good number of people are not. We know to wash our hands, sanitize our hands as often as possible, keep our hands to ourselves and social distance; but a good number of us are not doing these things because as I have been reminded in this Corona era,
habit is stronger than knowledge. It is not what you know that matters eventually, but what you do; although what you know is supposed to affect and influence what you do, yet it is what you do that ultimately makes all the difference.
This is a principle that applies to all parts of our lives, not only personal hygiene; always, it is what we do that matters, not what we say.
In conclusion, this pandemic has revealed our limitations as men, we are not invincible after all; a virus not big enough to be seen by the unaided eye has in just few weeks interfered with the program of everyone in the world. Thanks to all the people who are the front lines fighting this war, we can anticipate victory but not without some losses as painful as that will be.
Because of this everyone must do what is needful. some of the things the authorities have asked us to do include washing our hands frequently with soap and water or thoroughly cleaning them with an alcohol-based hand rub, maintaining at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between ourselves and anyone who is coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, practicing respiratory hygiene by covering our mouth and nose with our bent elbows or tissue when we cough or sneeze. Then disposing of the used tissue immediately.
Ultimately though, our lives are in God's hands, for safety is not primarily in the government or the health care delivery system or the precautions we take, but safety is in God. He is the Almighty, the one who holds the whole world in his hands. At this time as in other times, our trust must be in him and him alone.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and call in advance.
Also, stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
God keep us all.
Paul Harrison et al, Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry Seventh Edition. Oxford University Press. 2018