I don’t have a recipe for making hand sanitiser from olive oil, and I don’t have a crystal ball telling me what the future will look like. What I can say is that the YMCA has been here before, and will be again. Started in 1844, the YMCA movement helped people through two World Wars, the Spanish Flu, times of civil unrest and all the local challenges that communities faced and still face today. Covid-19 is our current crisis and the fear, uncertainty and disruption, not to mention ill health and even loss of life it has caused and will cause, are difficult to quantify. At the YMCA our values teach us that every life is precious, that this world is not as God would want it, and that suffering – including viruses – is not the endgame for humanity. Indeed, we are inspired to fight for life and make every single one count for as long as possible, and as brightly as possible.
Right now our amazing NHS is engaged in that fight, and I think of the people in it as having ‘Guardian DNA’; going into work considering the needs of others above their own. Whilst others can remain safely indoors, they step into the breach. And not only the NHS, but also police, the fire brigade, paramedics, other emergency services, charity workers (including YMCA), care workers, and indeed all the key workers who with their Guardian DNA keep the UK together and healthy, safe, protected, clean and with a future to look forward to.
That future will come soon enough, and we will emerge from our homes and have to embrace it (and hopefully each other too!). YMCA Essex will be there helping to shape that future so that every life matters. Just like we did after successive World Wars we will help pick up the pieces and I feel sure we will be doing that together with you. Indeed, I am excited about the possibilities. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reprioritise what is important to us as a society. Perhaps there will be a little less consumerism, and a little more interconnection. We might decide to care for our most vulnerable in society better. There may be new ways of co-creating community spaces and ensuring everyone feels they can belong, contribute and thrive. We might even tackle the vast gulf between rich and poor, a gulf that is steadily growing and will only contribute to greater social unrest and inequity.
My greatest hope is that we function in such a way after this that the next generation has even more ‘Guardian DNA’ in it than we see now. If we can example, teach and instil that kind of empathy then it is possible that the lasting legacy of Covid-19 doesn’t just have to be a death toll and an economic challenge. It could be the catalyst for us to collectively become a better version of us.
For now I wish you and your household all health and safety, and a renewed sense of richness regarding the loved ones in your life. And may I invite us all to consider what kind of world we are going to emerge into, and what little nudge we are going to give it so that it spins in a better direction.
With very best wishes,