I was looking forward to last Saturday 8pm like an amazing holiday - finally going for a walk with Joanna, my wife. Halleluiah! We've made a vow to walk every day we can from now on.
We counted 600 people that we passed on our 50-minute route including walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers and joggers. Plus two people on electric scooters (is that exercise?). So many exercising must be good. I must lose some weight - too much comfort eating (what else was there to do) in front of the television/computer.
If you have a mask on, smiling doesn't show so well, but more people said or smiled a hello than ever before. What is sad is that we strenuously avoid people, not that we think we have the virus (if you have you shouldn't be out at all) but because it is now polite to avoid any touch, hug, double or triple kiss, or close encounter.
It seems sad because those things are natural expressions of affection in a loving world. I'm reminded of Jesus who, on meeting a leper when the rules said that he should not approach, nevertheless risked his own life and ministry and touched him. He did it without a PPE mask, gloves, gown, etc., and as fully human he had every chance of contracting the disease. It was so remarkable that three of the four gospel writers choose to tell the story.
But we must not do that. Our culture is temporarily inverting itself. We express love, now by doing the exact opposite. We use masks, not to avoid catching something from others, but so that others can feel safer when they pass near us in the street. We wear gloves in the supermarket, primarily so that any virus we might have (even asymptomatically) will not pass onto the surfaces that others touch.
Love for humanity has put carers and health service workers, and many others, at great risk which they could avoid, but choose not to. Some even returned from retirement to help in care homes, hospitals. Many in ordinary homes care for others who have to self-isolate. Where normally families find it difficult to co-exist, the lockdown has required them, for love of one another and their own sanity, to keep a special calm and so support each other. We are making contact in new ways. Zoom, Skype, Teams, phones, internet, WhatsApp have boomed as people talk like they have never talked before.
The virus may do its worst, but much of humanity responds with a love that is deep inside of us, that comes with being human, and that, I believe, is the spark of divine we all know, for God is in that love.