Recently, I heard an arresting comment concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘the best way to deal with fear is through love and science.’ James Valentine was interviewing Jon Owen, the CEO at Wayside Chapel, on Radio 702.
With restrictions on the community likely to get tougher and tougher in coming days, fear is on the rise.
Such crises force us to consider again what our fundamental values are, and to whom we will listen for guidance in being encouraged to maintain them.
For some time, I have endeavoured to seek out the voices of the marginalised and poor. When I do so (and I could be much more consistent in this), I usually hear something that is both refreshing and challenging.
The comment above is a pertinent example.
First, I appreciated Jon’s reference to science. He’s not proposing a romantic, sentimental solution that disregards the need for facts and sensible precautions.
Secondly, like many of you, I despair when I hear news of people fighting in the aisles of supermarkets to get their hands on toilet paper (What is it about Covid-19 and toilet paper?!)
For me, such behaviour stirs up fears about the likely consequences of humanity’s predilection to focus on self. How can people be so oblivious to the needs of others, especially in a time of crisis?
I pride myself that on the one occasion I have seen toilet paper in the aisles, I only took one packet.
Maybe that’s good but, in and of itself, it doesn’t help deal with the fears that are active in the community
However, listening to Jon is a reminder of the way compassion extends beyond the bounds of our worlds, especially concerning those whose actions we disapprove of.
Let me quote from one of Jon’s newsletters:
‘When will we realise that all our panic buying is not going to save anyone? When will we realise that our health is only as safe as the most vulnerable person in our community? We build up our immunity, not down.’
I appreciate the way Jon frames the issues in terms of the welfare of the whole community, especially the vulnerable. This perspective is a potent antidote to the usual way people focus on self and immediate family only.
It’s also a reminder about the power of love and compassion, and the edgy way love can express itself.
In the interview, Jon suggested that even if the government closed the doors of Wayside Chapel, then Wayside Chapel would keep its back door open because the needs of people living on the streets remain.
Finally, his views bring a sense of hope.
Fear need not be the final word having heard about fighting in supermarket aisles.
There is always the reality of love; there are yet more possibilities of expressing it, such that people tainted with fear come to realise that hoarding ultimately serves no one.
Our fragile community needs such understanding and kindness.