When Covid-19 hit, there were tales of Asians being insulted, ostracised, spat at, beaten, screeched at to “Get the #@$ out of my country!”
Then came the pictures of shopkeepers who placed posters across their doors, refusing service to “foreigners”.
Now that this virus has spread even further, and the patients are no longer just Asians, is it wrong to take a few moments to snort at the latest online videos?
The classic is the one where an Asian man steps into a restaurant, a lift and a gym, and coughs; the folks flee faster than The Flash. The man is an actor with a message. But behind the snarky storytelling lies a sad reality.
My child called home last week to say an Asian friend was in a fairly crowded train, heading from Oxford to London. He coughed because his throat was ticklish – you know, the sort of ticklish that a sip of water will take care of.
What happened was this: the carriage emptied. Every single person packed his or her things and left. The young Asian didn’t know whether to sob (“It kinda hurt!”) or celebrate (“I got the whole place to myself – beats even First Class.”)
I’d say the virus isn’t what’s viral. How we’re responding is. And while it’s understandable, it’s still sad.
Waiting for the microwave to ding, for the delivery guy, for the bus, for something to go on sale, for your turn at the doctor’s …
These are easy ‘waits’. We know that, eventually, that which we are waiting for will happen. The microwave will ding, the bus will come, and two hours or more later it will be our turn to enter the doctor’s office. The parcel? Well, there could be an inexplicable delay or, like mine did, it could go on an extended holiday in Paris (yep, the one in France) before it found its battered way back and I’d forgotten what was in it.
So then what’s a difficult ‘wait’? It’s waiting for signs that a relationship can be saved if you were more forgiving and tolerant.
It’s waiting for acknowledgement that you have done well.
It’s waiting for others to realise they’d been fed a load of lies and been taken in by someone with a glibber tongue, a wittier story telling style or a more convincing persona.
It’s waiting for the life you were meant to have if you were filial, loyal, kind, honest and hardworking.
It’s waiting for someone to change for the better.
Guess what? I’m done waiting. I will change. I will make my life better because I deserve it. And those people? They can wait in vain for me.”
With the novel coronavirus rampaging away in ever expanding parts of the globe, it is hard to imagine folks bothering about anyone else.
We’ve read or heard stories about skirmishes over the last box of surgical masks, pet dogs and cats abandoned and forsaken, Asians insulted and spat on just because they were assumed to be virus carrying Chinese. Then there’s the manic buying of groceries and sanitizer that left supermarket shelves bare. And the snaking queues to buy masks.
It’s sad but not unexpected, I suppose, to behave as if there’s tomorrow so you can be a totally selfish being today; the daily increase of infection numbers and deaths do nothing to calm the anxieties and panic gripping so many countries.
I don’t know if the outbreak has peaked or if the worst is impending. But I know there is truth in the old saying that true character will be revealed in trying times.
Stories have emerged of quiet heroes who have donated masks and sanitisers to those who need them more. Youths who have set up collection points to collect these donations and deliver them.
Anonymous big-hearted people have tied bottles of sanitisers to lifts with messages of encouragement to share and take care of each other. Even more heart warming are the scribbles of thanks.
So, thank you, all of you, whoever you are. You could have hoarded your supplies but you chose to share them with your communities. Your kindness and generosity will be remembered.
Last November, I was in the Young Adult Fiction section of my local bookstore, wondering whether or not to purchase a set of Keeper of Lost Cities books by Shannon Messenger for the library.
You should get them all,” said this voice behind me.
The speaker was a teenaged boy. Bespectacled, way taller than I was, and holding a stack of books in his arms.
They’re really good,” he continued. “I’ve read the lot and I’m just bummed number eight’s still not out yet.”
He must have thought I was an idiot because I literally stared at him, mute, for several seconds before remembering my manners and thanking him for the recommendation. And that yes, I would buy the set.
His mother joined us as he was describing the stories in Book Three and promptly apologised for him annoying me.
I assured her he was doing nothing of the sort, and that I was learning a lot from him. We chatted a bit more about the other books he had with him, then parted ways.
I could not have imagined that my book buying jaunt would result in the privilege of meeting this young man and his mother, and learning so much about seeing books through the eyes of an actual teenaged reader of books, the group I’d feared misplaced in modern techo-civilisation. Indeed, he had been a joy to chat with. He was articulate, knowledgeable, well mannered, and a credit to his mother.
I highly doubt he or his mother will read this but if they do, thank you. The young man’s unexpected act of kindness in taking the time to share his enthusiasm for some books restored my faith in young readers and, more importantly, in the future.
As a child, I thought the David Copperfield show was pure magic. He could make people float, he cut them up and they didn’t bleed, and he made airplanes and elephants disappear. How magical was that!
Then I grew up. And learnt about chemistry, physics, sleight of hand, optical illusions … suddenly, magic became de-magicked. I mean, The Magician’s Greatest Secrets was a hit on telly.
Today, definitely older and debatably wiser, David Cooperfield’s magic no longer enthralls me. I learnt that the real Copperfield was a Dickensian orphan made good. I have an unwillingness to suspend belief.
But I still believe in magic. I believe it’s the infant’s happy squeal, the child’s look of wonder and joy at his achievement, the deep and unspoken communication between animal and man, the music performance that brings an audience to tears …
I believe that the truly magical defies science and logic. Know where to look and you’ll find magic in the power of life that allows us to heal, and which teaches us to hope.