It’s Still Okay to Smile
“Why did I even buy a 2020 planner!?” After all, everything’s cancelled. And everything’s changing, almost every day, in every corner of the world. Birthdays, weddings, festivals, footy, jobs, futures. I can’t even take my kids for a splash at Clovelly Beach anymore.
It’s unsettling to see how swiftly our amazing, modern world has been brought to its knees by a virus. But just imagine how disturbing life in Lombardy or New York is right now, with the death count now exceeding 9/11, not to mention the disaster awaiting some Third World countries.
And somewhere between upskilling on year 5 maths for homeschool and another Netflix binge, most of us are trying to make sense of coronavirus and mass unemployment and waking up each day to some sort of bad dream.
Some voices will try to tell you that it’s God sending judgement for playing footy on Good Friday or on corporate greed (although Jesus never quite joins those dots). Other voices will argue that it’s hard to believe in God in a coronavirus world (although believers of all stripes have written deeply on the problem of pain for millennia, and honestly, the “problem of suffering” is a problem for everyone). And there’s the voices saying that COVID-19 is nature’s wake-up call to modern complacency (maybe, but that assumes that ‘nature’ has some grand purpose).
What we do know, for one, is that the pandemic has shattered the illusion of our control over our lives and our world. All the money and power in the world can’t shield you from coronavirus – just ask Pink or Prince Charles. After watching her three-year-old son suffering from COVID-19, Pink said, “There have been many nights where I cried, and I have never prayed more in my life.”
This is beyond us and it’s so disconcerting and humbling and overwhelming. For some, life has slowed down and that other epidemic – of loneliness – has been exacerbated. For others, life is busier than ever readying our hospitals or treating patients or teaching students or pivoting businesses (a special shout out to all our health workers and teachers).
And there’s another thing that we can know, or maybe we’re quickly re-learning in a late-night-cramming-session kind of way, and that’s the fact that we need each other. The modern, secular, individualist, Disney mantra, “Be true to yourself and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” doesn’t cut it anymore. It might be ‘my beach’ but this is a moment to sacrifice our freedoms and to bear the inconvenience for the sake of others and especially those most vulnerable.
Just as well it’s Easter time, then, because Easter offers us the resources to do what we know we should do but find so hard to do. The Christian take on Easter says that the Son of God gave up not only his freedom but his life, to save the lot of us. And when it says that Jesus rose again, it’s telling us there is a hope that’s stronger even than death. Maybe you doubt that could ever be true, but don’t you at least wish it was true? It’s helped me and it’s helped millions to choose sacrifice over self – like the villagers of Eyam infected with the bubonic plague, who quarantined themselves to die in order to save northern England.
This year is one we’ll never forget. Here’s hoping the memories that stick are all the ways we loved our neighbours by sacrificing our freedoms. And just remember, when you’re avoiding that stranger on the footpath, it’s still okay to smile.
Dave is the Minister of St Luke’s Anglican Church, Clovelly (clovelly.org.au). The Beast invited Dave to share his thoughts on the current situation.