Today it was announced that the lockdown would extend until April 30. What began as a 14-day quarantine on the 15th of March is now going to go on for at least another month. I believe that this will be beneficial for the betterment of the country, though I realize that I could be crucified for saying so. I am housewife and mom who works primarily from home. I live with my husband and children who are safe and healthy. None of us are hungry. We are comfortable. And though we are worried about how this ECQ may impact our lives and sources of income, every basic need is still met.
As of late, I look out the window in the evenings as the moon sits comfortably and am delighted to see the city stars again. I think of our oceans and the atmosphere that surrounds us and find peace in this time of quiet reflection. I am one who truly believes that this is happening because the world needs to heal. And yes, again I feel like these statements may backfire – Because as much as I have a deep spiritual connection with the earth at my feet and the air that fills my lungs, who am I to get to decide that this is what is ‘needed?’ Who am I to revel in the fact that the earth is healing, but through it, the world is dying?
We are all suffering in some way. The health crisis aside, businesses everywhere are affected, leaving many in debt or jobless. And though I too will feel the adverse effects when life begins to normalize, I cannot pretend that I am not one of the lucky ones.
I see the news. I am made aware of death tolls and confirmed cases and PUI’s. I continue to read the countless forwarded messages in my endless chat groups. And though I may empathize with them, I cannot truly understand as I have not been directly affected by the COVID19 pandemic, or been a victim of the new policies that the situation brings.
As I write this, I am staring out at my husband who is quietly reading from the terrace outside our bedroom. We are surrounded by greenery and from a distance we can even make out the mountains that border the city. But in this moment, all I can see is my privilege, clear as the summer day. I am aware of the fact that, there are too many who do not have half of the luxuries I have often taken for granted.
When the spread of the Coronavirus began, one thing was for certain – it did not know race, sexual orientation, status, or age. This virus does not care about your portfolio, bank account, or contributions to society.
So how can a non-human entity, which clearly equalizes us all, make the human divide so clear?
For the privileged, the humorous consensus is, “if corona doesn’t kill you, the lockdown might.” We think about the normalcy of how our day-to-day lives were, and we yearn for it. But while some of us are safe at home, trying to be responsible by social distancing, others simply do not have the option to do so. The slums leave so many with no control over their own personal space, much less the 6-foot radius.
Our lockdown stresses include homeschooling our children, missing our brunches and cocktail hours, cohabitating with our spouses 24/7, not having a particular ingredient for a dish we wanted to prepare, and God forbid, running out of toilet paper, “Will people think I’m hoarding if I buy in bulk?”
But the less fortunate face problems that are so poignant, sending them deeper down the hole they already had trouble climbing out of. Many have lost work, while others who are able to still work risk their health and essentially their lives to survive. How much longer will they be able to stretch those last few pesos? Many are separated from their families. And most will not have the funds to seek medical treatment if need be. It is a panic you or I will, thankfully (and hopefully), never understand.
Another aspect that shows how clearly the divide is in medical systems across the world. This spans beyond privilege and shows uncertainties in the level of unpreparedness as well as the blatant abuse of power in many. Locally, a multitude of issues continuously arise – from the distribution of medical supplies and protective gear, to front liners everywhere having to beg individuals to stay home to flatten the curve. The statistic in the Philippines is 1 doctor to 33,000 patients. And if that isn’t alarming enough, most people who are sick don’t even have access to test kits. While you have international celebrities and local politicians who have not only been tested, but given speedy results, some even showing little to no symptoms. How is any of this right or fair?
They say ‘tough times reveal true colors,’ and no truer words have been spoken. This whole piece is not a judgment on anyone (I too am guilty of some of the things mentioned), rather something that is meant to open our eyes to the plight of those whose lives have changed drastically – whether from sickness, loss, hunger, or fear.
On a positive note, through this many living angels have shone brightly. From big companies that have used their resources to help others by lifting rent, granting payment extensions, given paid leave, and to smaller units giving donations, relief goods, and the like – thank you for being true leaders we can all look up to. But most importantly, to the frontliners – Medical workers, sales clerks, bank tellers, delivery drivers, janitorial staff, and every hard worker in between – I thank you. You are the champions the world needs. Sharing a beautiful excerpt from the Pope’s Palm Sunday homily:
“Dear brothers and sisters, look at the real heroes who come to light in these days: they are not famous, rich, and successful people, rather they are those who are giving themselves in order to serve others. Feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line. Do not be afraid to devote your life to God and others; It pays! For life is a gift we receive only when we give ourselves away and our deepest joy comes from saying yes to love without ifs or buts.”
I will end on this note, and with a reminder that though there is definitely a divide, we can mend it by treating everyone with kindness, and by doing our best to stay on the path that is good for everyone, rather than the one that is self serving. Help where you can, whether that means giving your time and effort, or even just staying home. Our privilege doesn’t make us bad humans, it just requires us to be empathetic and lead with compassion in these trying times. Only then can we begin to bridge that gap.