I’d always loved to hear my late grandmother share her recollections of World War II. As a child, I would be intrigued by the descriptions of how everyone suffered when Singapore was under attack, how they survived by their wits, and how villages and neighbours pitched in to help each other, building their own bomb shelters and sharing food. It almost made me envious that her generation had a story to tell.
I guess we have our story now. With COVID-19 being a global crisis that has brought great hardship and changed lives to an unprecedented extent, it feels like the coronavirus is the “world war” of our generation. It’s not an experience any of us would want, but it will leave a mark on many of us that we will never forget.
Whether young or old, we have suffered in our own ways. Some of us may have lost loved ones or friends to the disease, some of us may have been infected ourselves, and all of us have been affected in one way or other. Life will never be the same again.
One day, when all this is over—and I believe that day will come eventually—we will be able to look back and tell our children and future generations, “I lived through COVID-19.”
And when that happens, I wonder, what else will we say? What stories of COVID-19 will we tell future generations?
This question calls to mind what happened when the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. The first thing that Moses did was to remind them what had happened—their captivity, deliverance, rebellion, and punishment (Deuteronomy 1–7). “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day” he warned them (8:11).
The stories that the Israelites were to tell their children were not just of what had happened to them, but also of what they did. They were to remember what they did right as well as what they did wrong—these were to be part of their institutional memories, their lessons for future generations.
So what will our stories of COVID-19 be like? Will we be recounting tales of how life came to a standstill for two months? Of our long days and weeks of anxiety and despair? Or will we be sharing inspiring stories of how communities came together to help each other in selfless, generous deeds?
Indeed, these were the stories that really made this year’s National Day celebrations special. Although they were scaled down because of COVID-19, they gained special meaning from the accounts of ordinary Singaporeans who went out of their way to help others. Like the two young hawkers who cooked for free for the needy. Like the family who sewed masks for others.
So what will we, as God’s people, be doing?
Will we be, as the Bible calls us, looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4), caring for the needy (Deuteronomy 15:11), and giving generously and selflessly (Luke 12:33-34)?
COVID-19 is not yet over, but our story begins now. May we learn to love selflessly and care compassionately as our Saviour did, and have stories to tell of how we allowed ourselves to be used by God in these difficult times. May we be a part of His story of love.