By Tommy Martin
DISTRICT DIRECTOR: TOMMY MARTIN / EDITOR: EAMONN O ‘rEILLY
Ah yes, we are at the beginning of the “new normal” – but what does it mean? One thing I have noticed over the past few years, as I advance towards a state of aged crankiness, is just how quickly words are introduced to our daily lexicon to describe changes to our daily lives. To me and everyone else, “normal” behaviour consisted of shaking hands, exchanging hugs, trying on clothes in a shop and a myriad of other routine daily activities. And then, almost overnight, what was normal was no longer permitted, and we were compelled to not just modify our behaviour, but to suspend it indefinitely.
This dramatic and drastic change to daily life, in Castleisland and elsewhere, brought into sharp focus, just how vulnerable the human species really is. It was truly shocking to many people that such a developed society as ours could be brought to our knees, frightened, unsure, and desperately seeking leadership and reassurance.
We looked abroad for comfort in dealing with Covid-19, and there was none to be found. Unlike previous national emergencies, this narrative was immediate and multi-sourced, and there was much in the way of contradiction, mis-information, dis-information and plain old fashioned speculation. In a way familiar to previous generations of Irish people who nightly gathered around their radio or newspaper to get the unfiltered message, we too found ourselves tuning in to daily bulletins and updates from the Government and HSE, while also sneaking a peak at ill-informed chatter on social media.
We also found ourselves responding to this generations’ challenge – but it is important not to get carried away with our patriotism or sense of self-sacrifice! As someone said, previous generations were asked to fight and die for Ireland – we were simply told to stay at home and watch movies!
But we also saw the very best of our people – we saw people living beside each other for years morph into true neighbours, in the knowledge that they needed each other. We saw that unbreakable of all spirits, the heart of the volunteer – local people freely giving their time and talents to help those in the community who needed support.
We saw people cheerfully accept this pause in their lives, and while many looked back ruefully at happier days last year, there was a broadly positive attitude taken by everyone – that this too will pass, and we will be the better for having endured it.
In Castleisland and hinterland, the quietness of the streets and the emptiness of the shops during the lockdown, reminded me of my own childhood, when absolutely nothing was open or moving on a typical Sunday afternoon! But this cut even deeper, as sporting activities were put on ice and even free movement was no longer possible. It is an absolute joy to now again drive into our town and have to scan for an empty parking space – I never thought I would say that!
As we take our first faltering steps into the “new normal”, it is heart-warming to see that the goodness towards each other that we have witnessed, is continuing. Yes, there have been gatherings where none should have taken place, but with Covid-19 beaten off the streets to such low numbers, it emphasises just how effective the lockdown has been, and more importantly, how good our citizens have been. Make no mistake, Ireland and its people have performed very well, saved lives and maintained a positive morale during a troubling time, but nobody is taking anything for granted, uncertainty will walk the roads with us for many days yet to come.
While the “new normal” is generally understood to refer to social distancing, hand cleansing, sneezing etiquette, etc., perhaps it can also mean a society that takes better care of each other, gives more time to each other, and now realises the importance of taking a step off the hamster treadmill of life every now and again, to take stock, appreciate and be truly content? Perhaps this version of normality, will be so much better than the previous normal we all took so much for granted? As Aesop was fond of saying, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Image sourced from Tommy Martin