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Who will we be after the pandemic?

By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published Oct 08, 2021 5:00 am

Who will we be after the pandemic?

Bloomberg reports that at today’s vaccination rate, life will return to normal in seven years. That’s how long “it will take states and countries to vaccinate 75 percent of their populations.”

Medical experts around the world say vaccination is important to achieve herd immunity. As more and more people avail themselves of the vaccine, they build a collective defense against COVID-19 so that a few cases of infection can be halted from becoming an outbreak. That concept is known as herd immunity.

We have been living in a pandemic for almost two years and already we have felt that the suffering is not only long, but extended and exhausting. Lives have been lost, and as of this writing 4.78 million people have died worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. We wake up every day to new cases. Tears continue to flow. Damage has been done both on the pockets and mental health of people.

Vaccination is important to achieve herd immunity.

The silent war is still far from over — with many still not believing that there is a war because they don’t see the enemy. For the many I have talked to in different barrios, COVID-19 is “just the flu.” Even if their own kin have died from it, they still won’t recognize the power of the virus to rule over them, over their lives. If they don’t believe in the virus, how else will they believe in the vaccine? Maybe denial is their form of defense.

 It’s almost impossible not to be kind in the time of the pandemic. The deaths that surround us make us afraid of our own mortality. It’s getting closer to home. We pray the virus evades us.

The end is still far away. We don’t see it yet but we know the end for COVID-19 is coming. One day – you and I look forward to it – the numbers will tell us it is safe to go out, to leave our masks at home, to reclaim our lives. We will see our friends and reestablish our ties face to face, in an embrace, in a firm handshake. We will help boost the economy. We will go back to the streets. Unafraid.

And when the pandemic is over, who would we be after it is gone?

Would wehave become kinder?

It’s almost impossible not to be kind in the time of the pandemic. The deaths that surround us make us afraid of our own mortality. It’s getting closer to home. We pray the virus evades us. Yet no matter how careful we are, we fall to the Russian roulette game of the virus. It’s a thief in the night. It robs you of health in broad daylight.

It is not the time to be selfish.

To be kind is a moral obligation. More so in the time of the pandemic. It is not the time to be selfish. We care. We share. Kindness involves being sensitive to the plight of others. And after the pandemic is gone, it is the language of the heart that will be remembered most.

Have we become more giving and forgiving? Have we become more tolerant of other’s mistakes? Have we become more understanding? Have we become more concerned about others? Even at the height of the pandemic, life is kind. I hear that from many — even from myself.

Would we have become wiser?

Everybody is fighting a common enemy every day. Rich or poor. Many feel the economic crunch. Life is becoming harder each day. People have learned to stretch their resources. All of a sudden, a nice pair of shoes has become aspirational. But, really, how many pairs can we wear in the time of the pandemic?

When the health crisis subsides, how will it affect our capacity to earn? What saving tips did we learn from it? Our response now to the pandemic will have a huge effect on our lives in the future. And if it is true what Bloomberg says in its science-based report that life will return to normal in seven years, how equipped are we to face that day? Will we be pauper or prince?

Life is hard. I hear this often — even from myself.

Would we have become more serious?

The weight of the pandemic is heavy. Death, no matter the platitudes, is heavy. In my barrio alone, I hear the barangay ambulance siren almost every day. Loud and long. It’s becoming more of a rule than an exemption. I did not know we had an ambulance in the barangay until COVID-19 reared its ugly head. A few days after the sound of the siren, we hear about the death or survival of this or that neighbor. It’s too much.

One day, the numbers will tell us it is safe to go out, to leave our masks at home.

The virus separates the living from the dead. A relative who is infected with the virus cannot even go to the wake of her mother who died of natural causes. She had just started her isolation when her mother’s health deteriorated. They live across from each other, in a compound. So, from her closed tinted glass window, she peeks to get a slight view of her mother’s open casket. She can only pray and cry.

People still go about their lives. The talipapa is still teeming with fish and other merchandise. The neighborhood bakery still bakes the aromatic pandesal. There’s still that smile in the eyes of the people who buy their daily bread every morning. But their faces have grown long — or is it the mask that partly covers their face? There’s immediate panic in their mind as soon as an ambulance rushes by on the road.

Life is getting more serious each day. I hear that a lot from others — even from myself.

Would we have become funnier?

Or: how do we learn to laugh in the time of the pandemic? We need to remember to live our days with laughter however bleak the situation is. After the pandemic, we will retrace the laugh lines on our faces. Laughter will save us from the mental stress of the pandemic.

Life is livable still, however scant. I hear that a lot from others — even from myself.

Would we have become closer to God?

Are we emerging from this pandemic with a heart still filled with gratitude to God? Is our faith still intact?

Faith is the miracle we hold on to every day.

In a pandemic-stricken world where even one’s millions may not be even enough to save a life, faith is a health currency. Faith saves lives. But if death happens in a family because of the virus, faith is still the anchor of the beleaguered and bereaved. It keeps them alive because faith teaches their spirit to fight, to take flight, to exert all efforts to survive even if they face a dead end.

Faith is the miracle we hold on to every day. Faith is the booster shot, the vaccine of the weary soul. Our faith will define us after the pandemic.

Life is still worth living. I hear that every day — even from myself.

But who will we really be after the pandemic?