Today marks the 588th day of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite having the longest-running lockdown, the Philippines nevertheless garnered the lowest rank at # 121 in the recent Nikkei Asia Recovery Index. Sadly, it seems that we have hit the wall.
For more than 19 months now, this pandemic has reached crisis proportions. Almost everyone is languishing and experiencing “existential burnout.” According to Margaret Wehrenberg in her book “Pandemic Anxiety: Fear, Stress, and Loss in Traumatic Times”, we should not be surprised at all. She said, “A year of uncertainty, of being whipsawed between anxiety and depression, of seeing expert predictions wither away and goalposts shift, has left many people feeling that they are existing in a kind of fog, the world shaded in gray.” Clearly, we have hit the wall.
Disparate Demographic Trends
Interestingly, the pandemic crisis has induced some divergent demographic trends, which are rather surprising. For example, in America, Jonathan Wolfe, an NYT reporter, writes: “Over the last 19 months, an outsized number of Americans have left cities, their marriages, and organized religion. Some have recently tried dumping social media. It seems that many see 2021 as a year to finally leave pre-pandemic lives behind and embrace the idea of a fresh start.”
Moreover, Wolfe remarks, “Perhaps the most pronounced example is what economists are calling “The Great Resignation.” In August, a record 4.3 million Americans left their jobs — the highest number in the two decades the government has been keeping track. Across industries including health care, education, retail, food services, and child care, people are saying goodbye to their employers, sometimes even walking out in the middle of a shift.”
In contrast, however, in the Philippines, many have lost their jobs involuntarily. The jobless are at their wit’s end, scrounging for any means of livelihood to feed their families. Based on a national survey conducted by Social Weather Station, 4.2 million Filipinos experienced hunger in May this year. Sadly, this pandemic has further widened the income gap between the 1st world countries and the rest of the world.
Faith & Hope in Tandem
And yet, amidst the gloomy atmosphere, however, it seems that the whole of humankind is desperately searching deep in their hearts for the meaning of life. Indeed, it’s time to dig into the dusty bin of one’s inner spirit. For some, they would discover new insights from old gospel values and beliefs. For others, they would simply shrug their shoulders in total despondency. Indeed, they have hit the wall.
As a possible remedy, St. Paul in his letter to the Romans provides insightful advice, as follows:
“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.”Rom 8:22-25, NAB
Indeed, hope springs eternal. It engenders the human spirit to persevere and endure the pains of this pandemic. We only need to rekindle in our hearts our divine predilection, being the children of God. As St. Paul would put it, “we know that all things work for good for those who love God.”Rom 8:28
The Common Good and Solidarity
Whilst faith and hope may ignite the fire of perseverance and fortitude to forge ahead with optimism, it would be foolhardy to remain ensconced in the comforts of one’s abode. Such a closed-in way of life would eventually succumb to a downward spiral into a counterproductive life, which would ultimately lead to sadness and isolation.
On the contrary, one would need to discern the needs of society and learn to adapt to the dictates of the circumstances. Such an attitude would certainly foster an outward-looking lifestyle. This, in turn, would lend itself to the development of initiatives meant for the common good.
A classic example of this inclusive outlook is the phenomenon of the community pantry, which spread like wildfire nationwide during the height of the first wave of attack of the COVID-19. This was inspired by a simple young lady, Anna “Patreng” Non, who started the first prototype – the Maginhawa Community Pantry. Today, thousands of community pantries nationwide provide food to the hungry.
Finally, whilst the road ahead appears foggy and fraught with uncertainty, it would be worthwhile to keep in mind a maxim composed by St. Josemaria during the Spanish civil war of 1936-39, as follows:
“Faith, joy, optimism. But not the folly of closing your eyes to reality.”St. Josemaria Escriva, the way, 40