What does an ideal world look like? I’m aware that this question sounds like something you’d ask yourself at 1am as you ponder everything we’re surrounded by and think of everything that ‘could be’, or as some sort of daydream or maybe a game where you get to design a virtual ‘perfect’ world as an escape from reality.
An ideal world is not perfect, but what if it could be real? Imagine if someone hit reset and we got to build the world we want to live in. Imagine if every single one of us – young or old, rich or poor – had a part to play in that because we all have wisdom, skills and ideas to contribute. At the moment, amongst the chaos, it’s almost like that reset has happened. We are no longer ploughing confidently forward the same way we have always done. When I opened my social media this morning and every morning for the last couple of weeks, it was flooded with offers of help and support for those in need, incredible acts of kindness, neighbours speaking to one another for the first time, meals being cooked for elderly strangers, bags of shopping left on doorsteps, people sharing what they’ve got with others – positivity, hope, unity. The Coronavirus has stopped us all dead in our tracks and given us a new perspective on life, one where we suddenly realise it’s not all about what we can get, but what we can give as well and, consequently, what we receive from giving.
After this, things will not be the same as before and we have to start building our society back up. That’s just the facts. But we all have a choice as to the world we want to rebuild, the world we want to live in and the world we want our children and grandchildren to live in. Do we all suddenly stop supporting our communities and sharing our lives or do we continue to see the necessity for connection? Do the local Facebook groups we’ve set up to see if anyone needs anything fall into disuse? Do we stop checking in on our friends to make sure they’re okay and have someone to talk to? Community is the most powerful resource we have in a crisis and we are rising to the occasion because of the coronavirus situation, but there is an ongoing mental health crisis too, a climate crisis, a crisis amongst young people with little hope for the future, let’s come together in our communities to fight these catastrophes too because they don’t end when the Coronavirus does.
The virus has delivered us right to the first step of rebuilding our world to make it a better place for us all – equality. When we’re all facing the same threat, we all have the same purpose – to defeat it – and I think we’re starting to realise that pulling apart in different directions, panicking and getting as much as we can for ourselves alone gets us nowhere and instead we must pull together. When we’re struggling to get food no matter how much money we have, it brings us all into equal standing and from there we can move forward. In a world that values community and human connection over money and materialism, we have to work together and no one is at a disadvantage because we’re all just human beings with an equal capacity to share and connect.
A few days ago, I saw that a woman who was self isolating had posted a photo of a huge load of food that had been left on her doorstep, bags of dried fruit, beans and tubs of tahini. She explained that a few years earlier she had helped a family of refugees from Syria settle in her neighbourhood and today they had brought round all this food, as well as dropping the same round for this woman’s elderly parents. They had both provided for one another when the other was in need, a partnership so deep and connected that no communication was needed. A friendship built on sharing that crosses social divides. I truly believe that kindness is the currency that can make our world
so much richer.
There was also a story recently about a man who is anonymously buying his entire village a takeaway every week during lockdown. What has changed so drastically that someone would be prepared to spend so much providing for the community around them and supporting local businesses just because he’s fortunate enough to have the funds to do so? I don’t know about you, but that is the world I want to live in – a world where those who have excess share with those who don’t, not to be seen as some kind of hero but because they believe in a system built on sharing what we can.
We can create this world, I promise. It’s very different from the one we live in now, but even in recent days we are beginning to see what it might look like simply in our changing attitude towards others and what is valuable to us. It may seem impossible and faraway, but it starts within us and our lives and the choices we make now. If we panic buy and lock ourselves away and surround ourselves with enough food to last us maybe…four months, what are we gonna do when that four months is up and we run out? Or whether we take what we need for now, make sure everyone in our community has enough, take the initiative to grow what we can, support others and have them support us, invest, build something, create something – a livelihood, a community, a future.
We weren’t really connected with many of our neighbours when this situation began, everyone was going about their own business, a lot of new people had moved in since we’d been away and I hadn’t even seen many of them to say hi. So we decided to set up a Facebook group for the immediate area. We put a post on offering to help out wherever we could, cook extra food for anyone who needed it (this was before stricter measures were put in place) and be there if anyone was struggling with their mental health and needed someone to talk to. Suddenly loads of local people started posting on there, just little things but all things that are strengthening our community – people organising teams to dig in the garden, someone picking up some shopping, online resources being shared, seeds being exchanged, excess food being distributed, thoughts and musings shared.
All over the world people are taking their garden fence panels down so that they can talk to their neighbours whilst both safely in their own gardens. When all of this is over, let’s not put those fences back up again, let’s not reinforce the things that divide us, let’s not forget the conversations we had and the jokes we shared over the garden fence and how we got through the hard times together.
It shouldn’t take a global virus to show us how necessary connection really is, but that’s the way it’s happened. Our humanity has been our most valuable resource for a long time. Look at how indigenous people all over the world live their lives, in harmony with each other and the world around them, what do they value? Money and possessions? No, its community that binds them together, their commitment to one another and their total, unwavering unity. We are social beings to our core and we need each other.
We all need to start talking about what this new world is going to look like. Even the beginning doesn’t work without sharing – sharing ideas, sharing thoughts, sharing conversations, connecting. We need to put everything we have on the table and figure out what works and what doesn’t. We all have experiences of what community feels like to live with or without. We have our own backgrounds and cultures and valuable lessons we can share from ancient ways of doing things. We have friendships and connections that we can bring forward and strengthen. We have solutions to problems. We have wisdom and life lessons. Between us, we have quite a lot of material and financial gain that we could put to good use. We’ve got skills to share and exchange, things to teach one another. We have people who plan, people who discover, people who care for others, people who can create, people who can build, people who can dream, people who can express, people who can organise, people who can lead, people who are fair, people who take the initiative, people who motivate, people who comfort, people who raise others up, people who support, people who carry on no matter what, people who are smart, people who invent and reinvent, people who feel things deeply, people who fight for what’s right and, in this new world, we’re gonna need you all equally.