Covid Considerations: A moment for pause and reflection

| Rajwinder Kaur Cheema

In the space of a few short weeks, the coronavirus has turned the world inside out. We know that times of crisis can also be fertile breeding ground for radical change, but what happens next will be determined by the stories and the truths we choose to tell. A door has opened, and there is a chance to reimagine how we relate to one another. This blog series will explore what those opportunities for change might be, told from the personal perspectives of people working alongside communities, no holds barred. 

The second blog in this series is written by Rajwinder Kaur Cheema. Raj has worked in public service innovation for the last 12 years. She believes in social innovation for social justice.

We’re living through a crisis. But I’m not going to give you a lengthy critical analysis on this whole situation as I expect there is – and will be – plenty of analysis coming our way. I’m also not going to use the words unprecedented or extraordinary. Instead, I’m going to share some personal reflections and questions with you in this short blog. Because I feel, as we slow down to manage this crisis, we could use this time effectively to pause, reflect and create some space to think deeply about what is happening and what this means for us.

The first thing that strikes me is the shift in our national mood towards people working on the frontline. They are our key workers – our heroes. And I feel proud about this because I have family, relatives and friends working on the frontline. But I also feel bittersweet about this shift because these heros have experienced wage freezes, cuts and a worsening work/ life balance over the last decade. It has led to thousands of health practitioners quitting their jobs – we’ve watched it happen! So I can’t help but think about the following questions:

  • How valued were our heroes feeling when they experienced these cuts?
  • What does this say about our understanding of and relationship with our public and civic services today? 
  • After this crisis, how will we value the risk and courage these heroes take with their own lives (and the lives of their families) by turning up to work and doing what only they can do?

The second thing I’ve been reflecting on is the shift in the conversations I’m generally having with the important people in my life. I’m hearing about their insecurities in relation to potentially losing their jobs, how vulnerable they feel in not having a partner to support them through this crisis, and how worried they are about their parents stepping outside the house. We’re talking about topics we don’t usually talk about like the quality of our lives, how lonely we feel stuck in our flats and how unprepared we are for death. I know a lot of people talk about the mutual and reciprocal nature of relationships. But for me, so far, this experience has been about a new found depth in conversations with people that wasn’t there previously. Our vulnerabilities are pushing us to have the kind of honest conversations we might have shied away from in the past. And I wonder how we can build on this honesty to have meaningful conversations – both as individuals and as a community.

The third thing I’ve noticed is a shift in how I am thinking about my time especially in relation to my community life. I’ve not had a chance to experience an active offline and online community life like this before. For example, this week my friends and I are doing a not-in-the-pub quiz via our laptops for the first time. I’ve known these friends for eighteen years! I’m doing Mario and Luigi style lunch walks with my sister which involves figuring out how to make it to the next goal post while maintaining a two metre gap with others on the same path. I’m also getting phone calls from my aunts about food stocks and offers as they reassure me by saying “not to worry, you can have some of our chapati flour if you run out”. I can’t remember the last time when I experienced so many acts that demonstrate how people care about each other. And I ask myself: why have I never done this stuff before? 

This makes me reflect on how time in the old normal isn’t entirely working for me in terms of my happiness and health. And I’m thinking about what this means for my time in a new normal. I want to maintain this active community life when things settle down. But I feel frustrated and trapped in being able to truly realise this – because I feel the choice in the old normal is either using time to make enough money to live comfortably (individual economic security) or contributing to community wellbeing, if you’re interested and if you have the privilege of time. Trying to do both is hard work because there simply isn’t enough time in the old normal. It’s a struggle sometimes just keeping on top of everyday life. I want to enjoy my community life, not feel exhausted by it. Yet this pause has made me realise something simple that I’d lost sight of: without healthy people, there is no economy. So then, these questions come to my mind:

  • Why are we not questioning models that have us trapped in making choices between our individual economic security and community wellbeing? (including the well being of our planet)
  • What are we afraid of?

I hope these questions encourage you to reflect on what is happening around you and they resonate with some of your own thoughts. We would really like to know what questions you have been reflecting on as you experience this crisis. Let us know by tweeting @IdeasAlliance_ using #covidconsiderations

More about Raj – Raj loves asking challenging questions, facilitating conversations between practitioners who should talk but often don’t, and working out how to give people with lived experience a seat at the table. She is also deeply passionate about applying the lenses of race, gender and social class to understand how power and privilege are exercised in public and civic organisations, and what the implications of this are for social change. Raj will be starting a new job shortly. She is not on Twitter but is very happy to connect with people on LinkedIn

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

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