In these chaotic and confusing times, dig a little deeper beyond the sensationalist headlines which bombard our brains, shoots of optimism can be found. One of the earliest since the World Health Organisation was officially alerted to “a pneumonia of unknown cause” on New Year’s Eve 2019, was how the restrictions to travel would bring down pollution levels and address many of the concerns about climate change.
Being given time to reflect too and significantly alter what is routine and mundane has also shown an appreciation of others that until now might have been taken for granted. The supermarket shop has become almost as thrilling as taking part in a mass participation mid to long distance road race event. Queuing in anticipation to be allowed into a store in waves. Trying to ‘trolley’ if that’s such a verb as many items on the shopping list of essentials whilst maintaining that two metre personal exclusion zone in the style of a real-time arcade game from the 1980s. My wife, who is a Nurse at one of the Central London hospitals on the very front-line of this “crisis” experienced first hand the generosity and kindness when our local supermarket had modified its opening hours to include priority treatment for key-workers like her. At the end of the shop, one of the floor Managers presented her a bouquet of flowers from the display by the exit and simply said “thank you.”
There is also the optimism of learning new skills. How to make a video of near televisual quality and share it on social media using existing equipment. The optimism of watching or seeing the culmination of views and downloads. Children and their parents as well as teachers collaboratively learning how to effectively use video conferencing. Taking part in virtual, online chess tournaments. Personalised piano tuition too. Far from social distancing, the policy of #stayhomesavelives has seemingly bought people closer together.
Concerns over screen-time over exposure has meant many have resorted to books and board games given the additional leisure time that seems to have been created. The optimism of opening a never previously read tome and being exposed either to a new or maybe familiar voice in fiction or the opportunity of filling in knowledge gaps. Some like the #DailyWritingChallenge group have chosen the optimism that a blank document brings on screen and choosing to fill it with thought. There are those of course who prefer a more classical approach and continue with pen on paper. Indeed, buying a bound hardback notebook was one of the last actions I did on the day that schools were closed to the majority of learners. Opening the book for the very first time and turning to that first, clear page evokes memories of that first day of the new school year when the whole year ahead seems so full of optimism and opportunity. Similarly with unpacking a board game for the first time is reminiscent of that sense of optimism birthdays and Christmas combined.