In my virtual scrapbook of family life, this blog chapter on the coronavirus chaos could be relayed to our now two-year-old son in one of two contrasting ways in years to come.
I could tell him the tale of the night I tucked him into bed and headed to the supermarket, recall the locust-plagued shelves and the horror as I realised his odd choice of bedfellow – a plastic Emmental – was the closest thing to real cheese he would touch for some time. Of how I bought half a cucumber because it was the sole selection in the veg aisle. And how chicken noodle soup remained firmly uncrossed off his mum’s wishlist because even the Pot Noodles had been panic bought.
Or I could paint a picture of positivity. Of how his nan turned up first thing with an emergency supply of his special oat milk. Of how a work contact called me from Tesco as they had spotted on Facebook he was in need of some, how another selflessly donated their hand soap to soothe his mum’s OCD nerves and that numerous folk offered to deliver supplies to our doorstep because we were following the Government’s advice to stay at home.
The second version is much preferable. In such troubling times for our country and indeed the rest of the world, there are signs of real community. People rallying round to help those in need.
But to convincingly tell it we desperately need things to change.
We need people to stop selfishly stocking up on uncountable numbers of pizzas, frozen shepherd’s pies and enough loo roll to last the year. I’ve witnessed all these in recent days.
Long-overdue measures by the supermarkets to ration supplies to sensible levels are welcome but those who have led us to this point must not continue to abuse the system.
And it’s not just because without calm decision making there will not be enough food to go around. It’s because we’re in the the midst of a pandemic.
The Government has taken unprecedented steps to slow the spread of the virus: self-isolation measures; advising home working and social distancing; shutting schools. They have asked us to significantly curtail our freedoms for the common good, knowing how painful and practically difficult it will be for many.
But what is the point if we have to traipse round supermarket after supermarket, searching for scraps to feed our families for another day? Each time increasing our contact with others – even if keeping our distance from those who still venture out spluttering into their hands. Having to do so nearly every day because shops are overwhelmed with home delivery requests while an in-store weekly shops appears impossible at present is surely far from ideal.
We need to think of others, not ourselves. Mercifully, from the gloom of greed and the wild west of social media disinformation we are increasingly seeing green shoots of community spirit. Social media has been used for positive means to identify the vulnerable and connect them with helping hands through Facebook support networks like this: https://m.facebook.com/groups/509497503030832?group_view_referrer=profile_browser
I really hope the sea of positivity quickly overwhelms the minority who are putting the system under strain and I can use this crisis as a way of telling the preferable tale of this truly testing time.