COVID has dominated our media, dominated our conversations, and dominated our priorities. It has been a year of stress and concern that never seems to let up. Worry about getting the virus, worry about family and friends getting the virus, worry about finances, worry about jobs and businesses, and worry about health both physical and mental.
I know I cannot hug the people I love unless they live in my house, l cannot have dinner with a friend or go to a movie, and travel can be measured in feet rather than miles. I wash my hands till they are raw, remove my mask to see its lines etched in my face and ensure I am more than six feet from people when I go for my nightly walk.
I grew up when there was a comic strip called Li’l Abner with a character called Joe who had a black cloud and rain follow him everywhere he went. Everything went wrong for him; he was the embodiment of bad luck.
The face of the pandemic could well be Joe. Every time we think we are done, the virus drags us back. The virus is not fair.
Those in leadership in politics and health have had an unbelievably difficult moment to lead us. I can only imagine the decision-making process, knowing whatever choice is made, the truth is there will be losses both to health and finances. I do not doubt their sincerity and their wish to provide effective leadership because the virus affects them and those they love just like you and me. They need to continue to lead us with both their heads and hearts.
I see many silver linings to this darkest of clouds. The light of human kindness cuts through COVID.
A nurse holding the hand of a patient in the ICU.
A doctor in an emergency department living apart from his family to protect them.
A paramedic testing a senior in their home.
A neighbour who provides groceries and a lifeline.
A friend who Zooms just to say hello and visit.
A cashier who smiles at you through plexiglass as she checks you out.
A teacher who develops a whole new method of virtual teaching to connect to her students.
A restauranteur who brings a wonderful meaning to the word ‘curbside’.
A volunteer who continues to show up so that others will not go hungry.
A daughter standing at a window of a nursing home and putting her hand to the glass to be with her parent.
A father who arranges a pass-by of cars to celebrate his child’s birthday.
There are so many powerful moments of kindness to restore our belief in goodness that I could go on for pages. What prompted this letter was one of those moments in my life last week.
I received an email to register for the vaccine, called a number and talked to a delightful lady who set a date and emailed a confirmation. I went to Countryside Arena and the people — in the parking lot, at the front door, at every registration desk, the line ushers, the nurse who gave the shot, the lady who checked me out, to the security guard who said goodbye — all were simply fantastic.
Like everywhere else in Canada, we need more vaccine, but we have an outstanding team to deliver it to us, as it arrives. As the chancellor of St. John Ambulance Canada, I have been privileged to be part of many events around the world and I can say, without doubt, our people of the Public Health Sudbury & Districts have implemented a vaccine program second to none, delivered effectively, efficiently and with care. I thank them for their service. They have provided my life and many others with that light of kindness that defeats the virus.
It reminds me of words I try to live by, “The true measure of greatness is not having your name written in a history book, but written on the hearts of the people who you touch as you pass through this life.” Many names have been added to my heart, that is the silver lining.
Geoffrey Lougheed is the Immediate Past Chancellor of St. John Ambulance Canada.