Connection, compassion, constants
“Lest we forget” is often associated with remembrance ceremonies of the Great Wars. It is an appeal to the living not to repeat the mistakes that led to such tragic waste of lives. An estimated 40 million lives were lost in World War One. Unfortunately, humankind soon forgot any lessons learnt—40 years later, another 60 million died in World War Two.
This phrase came to mind during the current post-circuit breaker phase. During the circuit breaker, our lives and routines were severely disrupted. Many had to work from home or lost their jobs entirely. Our children did home-based learning and could not play outdoors. Social gatherings were severely restricted and entertainment venues shut.
With the disruption came unexpected benefits, including relationships. Family-centred activities increased, with some trying their hand at baking and cooking together. A downside was when tempers flared as family members had a bit too much of each other. Even as there were curbs on face-to-face contact, family and friends found ways to stay connected. When we were not able to gather physically to worship God, many more spiritual-related “gatherings” occurred, albeit online. It was as if we remembered to value relationships and connections.
As the circuit breaker restrictions are slowly being eased, it appears that life is returning to how it was pre-COVID-19. The focus now seems to be on making up for lost time and opportunities, and on opening up the economy safely.
In our haste to resume “normal” life, let us not forget what we have learnt nor the things we have come to appreciate. So here is my attempt to remind ourselves lest we forget.
Firstly, the importance of social connection. The lack of social contact not only makes us feel isolated; it can trigger depressive feelings and moods. With social interaction being restricted to limit possible transmission of COVID-19, many have come to treasure times when we can visit family and friends. Even though the urge for connection may be met through phone calls or online chats, these do not come close to the face-to-face encounters.
Secondly, the surprise of compassion. News reports of acts of compassion, sometimes by complete strangers, never cease to encourage me. I am heartened to read about the selfless dedication shown by the carers, healthcare professionals and essential service providers who went above and beyond the call of duty while taking considerable personal risk. It would seem that in giving, the giver receives too—be it the joy or the satisfaction of helping a fellow human being. It is through such acts of compassion we rediscover our humanity.
Lastly, the reminder of constants. Jobs may come and go and health may wane, but there are constants in life we all cling to for hope. They may be our belief in humankind, the wealth of care of family, or our faith in the Almighty. What is the constant that you are reminded of during these difficult times? What is the constant that you cling to? And what precious lessons do you want to hang on to?
Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.