Asides: A global perspective
Sohani Fernando, LCSW, who has served ASWB as an item writer since 2016, sent this March 26 dispatch from Sri Lanka. Educated at Baylor University and licensed in Texas, Sohani returned to the South Asian island nation to work in humanitarian aid and orphan care and to be close to family. As of April 25, the city where she lives as well as most of the country is going on day 30 of a mandatory lockdown.
The intentions of my heart in sharing my current experiences is to give you a perspective from Sri Lanka and firsthand experiences that perhaps you may not have been exposed to yet. I am afraid our experiences here may be a reality for many soon and I felt impressed to share.
On March 13th, 2020, the Sri Lanka’s government closed down all schools indefinitely due to the Corona virus pandemic. We went from social distancing, to working from home, to a complete and indefinite lockdown of the entire country on March 20th, 2020. The mandatory lockdown was a sudden announcement and people scrambled to get necessary provisions for their households. Four days later, the curfew was lifted for eight hours so people could get additional provisions. Since most had never experienced a mandatory lockdown, they started hoarding without realizing that provisions would eventually reach our communities in the coming days. Everyone who shopped had to wear masks and given twenty minutes to shop. Many stores had makeshift sinks to wash hands when entering and they only took in small batches of people at a time. That day, sharp at 6am, people ran out their doors to join very long queues. The lines were so long, some of my relatives and friends stayed in line for six hours. Some passed out while others withstood the scorching heat of 90F and high humidity; there was a sudden fear that seized everyone and all sorts of people whether rich or poor, young or old, stood in long lines for hours to procure food. Never in my wildest imaginations would I have ever imagined life to become this way!
There is strict enforcement here of curfew but the government has started bringing bags of dry food packages to people’s door steps for a minimal cost through the military. Some of us who have the opportunity of ordering online or make phone call orders can continue to do so while waiting patiently until provisions arrive as there are backlogs but we are thankful.
Since the mandatory lockdown, the entire country has been forced to adjust but I am staying positive and am now forced to take the break I desperately needed! The streets are deserted; there is hardly any noise outside and the pollution is almost non-existent. I can hear birds chirping and didn’t realize how many birds flock near my home until now! For the first time, in a very long time I enjoyed fresh air from the front of our house which had been eternally boarded up due to high pollution from the street. There is a calmness amidst the chaos that words cannot explain. I am learning simplicity all over again. There are many opportunities to show love and hospitality and people are being mobilized to help those in need.
Last morning my mother woke up early and while on our front porch, she heard a familiar sound; the pleasant tune of our bread man peddling a 3-wheeler! At 6:30am she stopped him and bought some hot sweet buns and fish buns. The poor man had sold 1000 loaves of bread in a matter of a few minutes and by the time he came to our doorstep, bread was gone. The bread man wore gloves, had a face mask and used tongs to serve which was a rare sight! We ate fresh buns with excitement, something fresh instead of dry rations. Now slowly we hear of sea food trucks, fresh produce carts and meal deliveries starting to bring provisions to people’s doorsteps to prevent the spread of the illness and to stop hunger. It keeps me humble as now I can say I have a tiny fraction of an understanding of the plight of millions of people around the world who depend on others for their basic provisions.
The milk we use to have in abundance had to be rationed. It gave me an opportunity to teach the children to be thankful. It was only a few weeks ago that I told them to eat what was on their plates with thanks… “while you have food for there may be a time when we may not have….” I am very thankful that at this moment, there is enough to give others as well. I worry for those who may be going to bed hungry tonight; the homeless, those who beg on the street, the physically and mentally challenged, the daily wage earners and the orphans. I am hopeful that they will eventually get provisions but perhaps not tonight.
I am writing all of this to give you a global perspective. In the midst of the chaos, the anguish and the uncertainty, there is peace that comes from above; a great opportunity to reflect on the meaning of life itself. We never thought that what happened to Wuhan, China would make this much of an impact to our lives but it did, overnight. The greatest lessons I am learning are to be content in simplicity, never to be complacent, to not take people for granted, be thankful daily, pray earnestly, and to stay humble.