Lamentations 1:16

“For all these things I weep; tears flow down my cheeks.”

Two months ago when I last penned my thoughts, life was normal. We got up, got dressed, went to school or work, met at the office and even invited people into our homes. We went to church, concerts, coffee shops, sports stadiums and shopping malls. We shared the same space, we hugged and we exchanged smiles. So much has changed since then.  

We still get up, but perhaps later because we don’t have to travel to school or the office. We still get dressed, but quite casually because our meetings are mediated by a screen and there are no guests around our table. We keep a healthy distance, hugs are regarded as harmful and smiles are concealed behind masks. All this and more, because of Covid-19 the covert killer.  

Where does one start to process what we are experiencing as a nuclear and extended family, a neighbourhood, a nation and a global community?  How does one reduce to words the effect this pandemic will have on us – physically, mentally, emotionally, economically? How will it impact our society?

I’ve started composing this piece in my head several times but the words would not take shape. The words, much like my emotions, would not settle long enough for me to grasp. Sometimes they would rage like a veld fire, leaving me exhausted and spent. And then they would drift like a ship in the vast ocean without mooring, reducing my thoughts to a meaningless mess. 

So with my words failing me, my tears filled the fissure. I’ve shed tears of anger and frustration – at the growing gap between poverty and privilege so clearly highlighted in the concept of school@home. How do you do school at home when online resources requiring WiFi or data, are as difficult to access as the school building during lockdown? With parents or guardians not able to work, many of our mentees cannot buy data and as a result, are falling behind in an education system which already has them operating firmly on the margins.

And still I cry….

Tears of helplessness have flown freely and profusely as we struggled to connect with our mentees. How can we help them when we cannot contact them? How do we support them when we do not know what their needs are? Connecting with our mentees is at the core of the IseeU Mentoring Programme. How do we “do” IseeU in the absence of these crucial connections? How do we walk alongside our mentees and “do” life with them when we are not allowed to see them?

And still I cry…

I have watched the IseeU team respond to these questions and many others, with such passion and perseverance.  I struggle to find words to express my deep appreciation for their creativity, commitment and care during this difficult time. In the absence of words, I’ve shed many tears of gratitude. 

And still I cry…                                                                                    

Contemplative tears have been shed in a few WhatsApp video calls as I’ve realised that lockdown may separate us physically, but there are ways to connect on a deep level even though we cannot be in the same room with friends, family and colleagues.                                                                        

And still I cry…

Today I cried tears of joy and gratitude when we received a message from one of our mentees who is in Matric. Her honest and raw reflections connected with my heart in a way words cannot express.

And so I cry…

I have made peace with the fact that many more tears will flow before we draw a line under Covid-19. And perhaps that’s where I need to start processing this historical moment in time – pursue peace. I am reminded of a prayer I often prayed as a teenager.                      

And so I pray…God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

How are you navigating Lockdown?