If you had asked anyone on New Year’s Day 2020, if they thought by March the entire World would have shut down, they would have laughed at you;
however, as the days and weeks have moved on, I am drawn to Marcus Aurelius’ comment, some 2000 years ago, ‘remember, that very little is needed to make a happy life’.
On 31 December 2019, when China reported the ‘unknown pneumonia’, to the World Health Organisation (WHO) they said just 59 people were infected, all in Wuhan, China. How quickly things changed. On 11 February WHO named this new pneumonia COVID-19 – Coronavirus Disease of 2019. Then on 11 March Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, declared that it was a global pandemic. As a result, people all over the world went into isolation. Countries and states closed their borders and everyone who could, started working and studying from home. Essential workers such as health professionals, emergency service workers and supermarket employees became `our heroes.
Today, after two months in isolation, I look back to New Year’s Day and realise just how vastly different the world looks now. I was in Brisbane with my family and texting 16-year-old Ema, who was Bribie Rotary’s 2020 National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) student. Ema was on her way to Canberra to attend the forum. She was so thrilled, and her enthusiasm was contagious. Unfortunately, due to the fires, NYSF was cut short. Then this pandemic happened, and everyone’s life and dreams went on hold.
To me, Ema and her fellow school captains at Bribie Island State High School, Amelia, Brooklyn, Elijah and Jazmine, represented the excitement and possibilities of a new decade. They were about to start their final year at school. Brooke and Jaz were to be Bribie Rotary’s representatives at this year’s Model United Nations Assembly (MUNA) in Canberra in August; however, MUNA has been postponed and because most Rotary Clubs have had to stop fundraising activities, it may not take place in 2020. All our Year 12 students have been ‘robbed’ of so many possibilities. Some are finding home schooling stressful. They are all relieved that classes resumed on 11 May. After recently texting them I found they are positive and know that this is just a hiccup in their life journey.
During this time in isolation, I have been regularly checking on family and friends. My dear friends Bill Peacock and Peter Sheehan never cease to amaze me with their energy and positivity. Bill is in a wheelchair as he suffers from post-polio syndrome. He is also a Disability Advocate and an active member of Rotary d9560 Passport Club. As well as continually advocating for those with disabilities, who have their own set of unique problems and vulnerabilities, in this pandemic they have completed various projects around the house. Peter has also created a beautiful new garden sanctuary. Cicero’s view that ‘if you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need’ applies here.
My cousin Kathryn Borrelli, who is a preparatory teacher in Melbourne and a regular visitor to Bribie – she has helped at the Rotary markets – is being highly creative with her remote teaching sessions. Her husband is also working from home and has taken over the study with two computer screens, his laptop, and headphones. So, Kathryn prepares her sessions with her laptop mounted on storage boxes. Kathryn’s mother, my Aunt Eileen, turned 101 on 29 April and although in isolation in a Nursing Home is in fine spirits.
In rural Victoria, my cousin Megan is online teaching Grades 5 and 6 from her home. At the same time, she is supervising her own 3 teenage children who have computers set up in their bedrooms. At the end of the school day, Megan then has online sessions with school staff. Husband and Father Jeff has a 35-minute drive to and from his workplace. Megan’s parents Pauline and Brian, also regular visitors to Bribie, are helping with meals and shopping. A busy, hectic time for all. They are coping well but will be glad when things return to normal.
As for me, fortunately I am living with two ‘introverts’ and a very loving Golden Retriever, who make sure their ‘extrovert’ wife and mother is coping with social isolation. I am also grateful to an incredibly special group of friends on Bribie Island who keep me occupied with various jokes and email challenges.
It is heartbreaking that so many have lost their jobs and that our local businesses are struggling to survive. So many are finding isolation difficult and not coping without going to restaurants, pubs, theatres and night clubs; however, compared to the hardships of previous generations who suffered through WWI, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, this pandemic is causing minimal hardship and will not drag on for years. Recovery will take time, but it is starting to happen and I think the majority of us will come out with a better understanding of what is important in life.
Here on Bribie Island we can be grateful for our beautiful surrounds, our warm weather, our peace and tranquillity, and the wildlife. Over the past weeks, we have been following the progress of a kangaroo and her joey as it ventures out of the pouch. They “live” at our back fence and we marvel at nature, and our amazing sunsets.So Bribarians don’t give up hope. An old Persian adage tells us, ‘this too shall pass’!