As I write this it's the early stages of the crisis here in the UK. We're not yet on lockdown - schools remain open - but many events and gatherings have been cancelled, including--to my shock--church. Supermarket shelves are empty, and people are queuing to get into the shops before they open. And I know it'll get worse before it gets better.
That said, there are silver linings in every cloud, and some good things have already come of this situation:
- My daughter, anticipating a lockdown, has asked me to teach her to cross-stitch, and suggested we do a jigsaw puzzle together. More quality family time. (Unfortunately it seems I gave away all our jigsaws a while ago.)
- As things like milk and meat run out people who usually wouldn't are investigating plant-based alternatives. They are also trying foods they wouldn't otherwise have bought simply because it's all there is left.
- Things I didn't want to go to have been cancelled. (I'm not an introvert but the rest of my family is, and this situation is essentially an introvert's dream.)
- People are washing their hands thoroughly and properly, and coughing into tissues. Yes, I know they should have been doing that all along. They're getting the good hygiene habit, and hopefully it'll stick.
- With shortages in the shops, we're taking stock of what we already have and using it, which means less food wastage. Just this morning I braved the deepest recesses of our chest freezer to see what was lurking down there. I'm meal planning in great detail to reassure the children that we have enough. I should have been doing that all along. It also means I may well get to defrost the freezer at some point because I'm using stuff up rather than just endlessly adding to the top.
- Business are doing their level best to find ways of enabling staff to work from home. For the staff this means greater wellbeing and work-life balance, and less stress. For the businesses this can mean lower overheads - fewer offices to heat. As someone pointed out, we'll find out which of those meetings could have been emails. Lots of business will now be conducted by Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp and all the other technological solutions we're lucky to have.
- More people are working from home, and fewer people are going to events and gatherings, meaning less pollution.
- The toilet paper shortage is, in a strange way, also teaching us about better hygiene. In Asian countries including
- People will have more time to read books. This is a very good thing, especially as I have a book coming out next month. (Shameless plug.)
- We'll be more prepared for the next problem or pandemic. For years my church has been telling us that we should have a year's supply of food, toiletries and household items stored safely and rotated in with our regular food. I paid it a little lip service (I have a couple of containers of wheat and a grinder, so in theory I could make my own bread) and generally chalked it up to being one of the fun little quirks that makes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unique. But I'm really wishing I'd listened now. And you can bet, once all this is over, that I'll start to get serious about storage, and making sure I never have to worry about this sort of crisis again.
I don't want to pretend that COVID-19 isn't a problem (although I don't think, for most people, it warrants the type of obsessive panic we're seeing either) but maybe we can maintain some perspective and recognise than an ill wind can sometimes blow someone some good.