In the early days, we saw the loo roll hoarder. We saw the sanitizer nester. We even saw the paracetamol stock piler. This last year, and specifically in the UK, we have seen an unprecedented effort by some, to accumulate as many supermarket lines as possible for themselves and efforts to profiteer from lucrative government contracts from people with connections.
Some of those we used to share the tube with, walk the street with and even randomly talk with, took it upon themselves to stockpile as many different consumables as they possibly could to ‘cash-in’ on our lockdown difficulties. A lockdown for which they assumed that if they could control the supply, then reality of our demands would make them rich and richer.
This has been tough to witness. It’s made one question the true values of contemporary society, and what has allowed such horrid souls to flourish in our midst. Watching Dawn Bilbrough, the critical care nurse shed tears on BBC Breakfast, not even able to purchase some fruit and veg between two 48hour shifts, surely broke the hearts of every viewer. Watching Dawn breakdown, I began to question what was the bigger killer, the virus taking our lives, or the consumerism and selfishness that has killed the souls of so many? It has clearly been here longer than the virus, festering in us for so many years going unchecked until it manifest in all its glory this week.
Now it is in this most difficult time that something amazing has happened. While hoarders have filled our social media feed, some long-lost visitors have returned to Britain. Gratitude and Generosity. We have seen so many people start counting their blessings. Revaluating life. Enjoying time with family again. A genuine sense of thankfulness has entered more homes than Corona but seems to be just as infectious. It seems to also mutate and has brought with it the wonderful bond that beautifies everything, Generosity.
It has been wonderful to see neighbours looking out for each other, special effort being taken to ensure the elderly on our streets have provisions, and messages from organisations across the civil society spectrum working together to bring hope and optimism to evryone. When one looks at how these wonderful realities are now gracing our lives, it gives some confidence that together we will see this trial through. Together, regardless of our faith, ethnicity, orientation we are unquestionably stronger. As we watch mosques and churches, charities and businesses and government and media outlets come together to bring relief to our lives, we should all find solace and peace.
It cannot go unnoticed but there has been an unprecedented amount of the community turn to scripture at this time. Notably Muslims, who are increasingly leading the way on civil society programs to support the needy. There is a verse in the Quran which seems to be at the very heart of so many noble efforts to help the vulnerable. God, the Most Merciful says in the Quran,
“Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good.”(7:56)
And we see so many Muslims moved by this. This is at the heart of the dialogue of so many, with the prophetic tradition, “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.”
This lens is one we find in so many traditions, and in the psyche of so many of the wonderful volunteers emerging to help. Undoubtedly, the many references and call to Mercy in the New Testament, mobilise so many of the Christians now working side by side with city mosques.
‘blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’[Matthew, 5:7]
In this time of stress and fear, we find so many more people turning to divine scripture or even searching for a purpose beyond their own personal material need. This is a beautiful thing, and it allows one to consider how in many a faith inspired society, there can be a delightful coming together of diversity. It would be fair to say, when left to its natural course and people genuinely live life reasoning with scripture, many a great thing can and does happen.
God calls to compassion, so how will he tolerate it its violation by his creation? If we are to put Hollywood aside for a moment and judge the Islamic faith by its actual call, maybe we would all be better for it, as God says,
“Surely Allah is Most Gentle, Ever Compassionate to people.”Qur’an 22:65
This is something we increasingly see in Muslim communities across the country. They are simply being Muslim, when they make countless efforts to distribute Sanitisers from their shops, provide free meals from their restaurants and check-up on elderly neighbours. Now, clearly it’s not only people of faith, and this is why there is such peace in the beautifully crafted pros of Kitty O’Meare,
“ And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses and made new choices and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live, and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
These words have a healing effect, and in and amongst all the negativity, and all the fear, there is a sense that Corona maybe able to give us, what all the wealth in the world didn’t. We built towers, designed luxury goods, prepared the finest food and drink, and acquired more money and credit than the world had known before, but we lost our humanity. We had everything in our hand, but our hearts became empty. So, today, as we do see neighbours reaching out to one another, work colleagues supporting those facing layoffs, celebrities trying to serve those that made them famous, faith spaces all working to support one another, we see something beautiful. We are seeing a generosity we have not seen before. We are finding gratitude return to the hearts of so many. We are seeing a light shine through the darkness. And it is with this sentiment, that one can ask could Corona make Britain Great again? And we pray, it does!