2020 will long live in our memories as the year of the coronavirus pandemic. Daily life changed dramatically and suddenly. All over the world, we instantly lost freedoms that we had taken for granted. We couldn’t see our extended families; we couldn’t visit our places of worship; we couldn’t travel to other cities; we couldn’t eat out; we couldn’t hug our friends; and we certainly couldn’t meet for our annual dinner.
For many, the coronavirus lockdowns have brought an acute sense of loneliness and isolation. Losing loved ones or livelihoods, being separated from the people we love, and unable to do the things we love to do together, has been extremely difficult and felt even more so at Christmas. It’s just not how we were made to be.
It is true, this pandemic has threatened and changed humanity in ways that have felt quite painful. However, despite the pain, doors for good for each of us individually and for mankind were somehow left open through which we could find good, comfort and even, joy.
The pandemic has enabled us, perhaps for the first time in our lives, to recognise the deeply interconnected relationship of all living things in all parts of the world and the urgent need for us to deeply review our states of being and change our lives.
Online, virtual methods have emerged for fulfilling the demands of jobs, schoolwork or essential shopping frequently yielded surprising human rewards. Then, there has been the simple fact that so many of us have now spent much more time at home in the company of family members or friends. How many of us found during this time that we have been developing a renewed appreciation of ourselves, each other and of relationships?
This renewed appreciation, I like to think about as the Christmas tree of hope under which we can open 5 beautiful gifts.
We must continue to focus on the stories that remind us of the goodness of humanity and the power of human connection. One such shining example was that of Lunar Society Fellow, Paul Cadman, who orchestrated an incredible project with Art4Charity https://art4charity.co.uk/ featuring Gent 48, world-renowned graffiti artist who painted ‘Forward In Unity’; a masterpiece on Meriden Street in Digbeth which depicts Birmingham’s NHS and frontline workers fight against the “evil grasp of the virus that has take hold of the social lives and economic wellbeing of the residents of Birmingham.” Proceeds raised from the sale of the artwork, which has been signed by 250 dignitaries in Birmingham, will go to Birmingham Charities – Lord Mayors Charity, Acorns Children’s hospice, SIFA Fireside and St Marys Hospice.
Time may be the greatest gift of this devasting crisis. If you are now working from home, you’ve just been gifted your commute time. If some of your work is postponed or canceled, or if you’ve unfortunately been furloughed or even laid off, you surely have less wealth, but you do have more time? How can you spend that time in a way that will bring you joy and happiness—now and for the future?
I, for one, now spend more time with my daughter – restoring balance in my life. Fill your time with reaching out to people you love, or dabbling in things you have always wanted to try. Along with attempting to learn French in the hopes of finally visiting France when this is all over, I have learnt a new skill of “on-line chairing” of Lunar Society events and learnt a whole new three letter phrase, “You’re on mute.”
A lot of the disruption that’s resulting from COVID-19 is seriously distressing. But, could some of the disruption come with unexpected benefits.
For example, the step-change into the virtual world was something that the Lunar Society was planning further to the Away-Day in January but the disruption forced an immediate change, to a very successful online programme, way in advance of the timescale we believed it would have expected us to achieve. Another unexpected side effect of the coronavirus is the positive impact on the environment. The canals of Venice and even Birmingham, normally filled with pollution from people and boat traffic, are recovering. They’re now sparkling with life. And the sky is clearer over much of the world, thanks to fewer cars on the road and aircraft in the sky.
I do believe that human beings are wired to be generous which would in turn increase our self-esteem and self-worth. Studies show that being generous gives the immune system a boost (not a bad gift to ourselves in the current climate!). I was delighted, therefore, to hear reports of members further to our online meetings, connecting to support each other in their businesses and in their personal lives, with even some Executive Committee members taking time from their busy lives to check in, personally, with members.
I have actually found, in this season, that generosity is even more infectious than the disease itself. All of our panellists during the pandemic have given their time and their expertise voluntarily and for that we are eternally grateful. Together with the input of the delegates to the online events we have shared the power of knowledge, support and have catalysed action for society in many ways engaging in the power of plenty for the good of society.
It may seem hard to find the humour in such a widespread, devasting crisis, but there’s humour all around if you pay attention…yes, even in Lunar Society webinars. We ended up having a laugh or two, even at the ‘Recovery Through Change’ event, which I was told really helped to bring people together and give them hope for the future.
In this very unusual Christmas season, I do hope that you enjoy the gifts of humanity, time, serendipity, generosity and humour underneath your tree of hope. Hope adorned with laughter, giving, appreciation, kindness, acknowledgement, support and love for yourself and others to lift your spirits to new heights.
I wish you, your families, friends and loved ones the very best Christmas, that will bring joy and celebration despite the uniquely difficult year we have all been through. I very much look forward to a wonderful new year where we can finally meet together, like the good old days.
Deirdre LaBassiere, Chair of The Lunar Society, reflects on the highs and lows of a tumultuous year – and looks forward to 2021 when we might all meet again.