Coronavirus – Stay positive

Coronavirus – Stay positive

Catania 21.03.2020 

2020 has brought fear upon us. When the first news about coronavirus in China hit the news, we – the proud citizens of the Western World thought, “Yeah, in China, they’re overcrowded and far away. Of course, that won’t happen to us.”

Then it came to Italy, which is not a surprise considering that Italy is the most visited country in the world. Venice, Florence, Rome, Milan, who of you have not been in at least one of those cities. Italy is home to some of the most magnificent monuments ever made by a human hand. No wonder that with hundreds of thousands of tourists coming here every day from all over the world, Italy has quickly become the European epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The increasing number of deaths and the speed at which the Covid-19 virus continues to spread forced the government to take drastic measures. Most Italians accepted the decree of isolation and expressed pride in their leaders for taking strong action is these difficult times. Regardless of the fact that small business owners will be greatly affected by the lockdown – people already have lost their jobs and most of them, especially in Southern Italy do not have savings. 

Everyone with solidarity agreed that isolation is the only way to stop the disease from spreading. This solidarity and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, to save their parents and grandparents are truly heroic. Will it be enough? I don’t know. What I do know is that eleven days in quarantine is hard enough and it is only the beginning. I also know that when it’s all over, the world will not be the same. It better not be.

Recently the world has been a shit place, let’s be honest about it. Bigger and smaller conflicts, whose genesis no one even remembers, were taking the lives of innocent people every day. Economic crises making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Climate change with devastating effects on our mother Earth that some politicians deny even to acknowledge. Societies divided by race, religion, social status. Chaos and antagonism. Everyone against everyone else. 

These are hard times. We used to say, “We all have to look after ourselves and our families. We need to make money to provide a future for ourselves and our children. Climate change? Some species of animals at risk of extinction, the rising disproportion of wealth, victims of pointless conflicts? Who has time to think about it? We don’t. We need to work so we can buy shit that we don’t even use, but at least neighbours can see that my car is better than theirs.” 

Much of humanity has completely lost empathy and the sense of responsibility towards our planet and ourselves. If it does not happen in your backyard, it is not your problem, right? Well, maybe it is. 

This pandemic has shown that the world is smaller than we thought; that we are one community and we depend on each other. We are one big family of humans living on the lovely planet that we are destroying for really stupid reasons. We cut down trees in Amazonia, we fish much more than we need to, we build refineries and poison oceans for what? So that someone can make money. 

But we cannot eat money. In our greediness, we forget that our fancy clothes and cars will be of no use in times of real crisis that we are causing by our actions. Just like today. The virus has forced countries to shut and all of us to stop. Suddenly we have realised that we don’t have to run from one meeting to another, that we can dine at home with our loved ones. In a way, it brought back the sense of community. 

How many Facebook posts have you seen of people offering help to one another? How many of you have made those phone calls to your relatives on the other side of the country? Those phone calls you ought to have made a long time ago but you just never had time. How many of you got to spend quality time with their families for the first time in months or even years? 

People are worried about kids not going to school but I’m thinking- finally, they get to see their parents. It seems like we were all hamsters on a spinning wheel and suddenly someone has put a pencil between the bars so we can’t keep running. What do we do now? We live. 

Contrary to what one may think, those limits placed on us have opened another door. The door to the inner self.  This is the time to look inside and ask, “What is it that really that matters to me?’

This is the time to think about our wellbeing, not the material one but the spiritual one. This is also the time Earth needs to regenerate itself after the years of abuse we have been serving. Most of you surely have seen the pictures of monkeys in Thai cities, dolphins on the Italian coast and fish in canals of Venice. 

Do you know that most of the military operations worldwide have stopped too? At the moment there are no bombs over Syria and even the Israel/Palestine conflict is on hold. 

How wonderful is that? How many lives is the coronavirus saving? People count the dead and estimate losses but if we look at the bright side (and there is always a silver lining to everything) there are a lot of good sides to the current situation. Apart from the obvious ones I mentioned before, like spending time with your loved ones, there are huge benefits to the World, many positive changes that are happening thanks to the coronavirus. According to the BBC, carbon monoxide and dioxide emissions (mostly from our cars) has dropped by 50% compared to the data from the same period last year (article from 19.03.2020 on BBC website). J Post cites Hamas affiliated academic who said ‘Hamas must seize the opportunity of the outbreak of the coronavirus to show mercy towards Israel and reach a long-term truce with Israel’.

I am not a specialist on Middle East conflicts, but to me, any ceasefire is always good news. 

The best part to me personally, a wedding planner living in Sicily, is that I see people united again. No-one argues about refugees, politics, religion. No-one complains. People have respect for one another again. When we do happen to pass by each other on the streets we smile. 

When was the last time you said hello to a stranger? In just a few weeks, this is happening on the streets of my beloved Catania. Yes, there is fear and people are wearing masks when food shopping but there is no chaos, no one is shouting. People are generally nice and very respectful of each other. Things that I have not seen in Catania before. 

It’s like we stick together because we know we are on the same boat. That sense of community and us smiling and looking after each other is something we should be grateful for. If it was not for Covid-19, we would continue living without even noticing our neighbours. If it was not for the coronavirus at this time I would normally hear cars passing, beeping at each other: people arguing or discussing things in an explicit manner. (Italians sound like they are arguing even when they talk about the weather). 

Instead, I enjoy the silence, I look out of the window and see an empty harbour. I find peace in knowing that I will soon have my dinner, no one is going to call me to invite me out, I will eat, work, read a book and fall asleep around midnight. Tomorrow my day will be more or less the same as today. All plans are put on hold, and spring weddings moved to Autumn. There is very little or nothing to do and while it is seriously affecting my business, this is the time to reflect and ask myself, “Where am I going? Who do I want to be? What really matters? Who really matters to me? How can I make this world a better place?”

 I invite everyone to ask yourself these questions and let’s all learn our lessons from the current situation. It will be over soon. I hope we won’t go back to where we were.


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