I wasn’t real happy watching the English football fans jumping around in Trafalgar Square and many other UK venues after their 2 - 1 Euro 2020 semi-final win against Denmark last week. Of course, I’m not talking about the actual win, but rather what it feels like to watch people who have freedom when you feel you don’t. It was almost as if I couldn’t understand how they could be enjoying themselves so much. Things were unfortunately a little more subdued for the English fans when Italy beat England by the narrowest of margins in the final penalty shootout.
It’s three weeks into the lockdown of the greater Sydney region where I live. I know that in the scheme of things it’s not a long time. However, I’ve noticed the disturbance to the rhythm and pattern of life as I know it. It’s brought back memories of the strange Easter season we experienced in Australia last year as stay at home orders were enforced for the first time in living memory, and being unsure about how things would pan out. And I’m not forgetting there’s the big issue of the small and medium businesses going down the gurgler because of the disturbance to trade and foot traffic, especially in the CBD.
Let me trade places for a bit, and remind myself of the horror endured in India recently, and in Brazil a little before, and in so many other nations, when rampant infection and overcrowded hospitals filled our TV screens. How might people in those countries have felt if they had a snapshot of me moving around for the majority of the last 12 months reasonably freely, heading out to a restaurant at will, or wandering through a shopping mall? I bet their feelings about the lack of freedom or doubts about future wellbeing have been a lot stronger than mine.
Whilst the experience of Australians in Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, may not compare to other parts of the world in terms of human tragedy, I have to admit to not really understanding what extended, no-end-in-sight lockdown felt like for them. I didn’t have their point of view. I’m not saying I was heartless, or even indifferent, in fact quite the opposite, but I couldn’t really understand because I wasn’t living it. Even when individuals described their experience to me in detail.
I wonder if you’ve ever reflected on whether you’ve lacked empathetic capacity, through no fault of your own? Maybe Jesus can teach us a little about how to snap into action in unfamiliar situations – we see him doing this all the time in the gospels. Changing his point of view, or perspective, stepping into someone else’s shoes.
The fact that the football competition was still called Euro 2020, even though it ran this year, serves as just one stark reminder that there’s still quite some catch up to do before the devastating and enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic allow life on our little blue planet to be reimagined.
BIO: Brother Michael Callinan is Campus Ministry Manager at Australian Catholic University, and enjoys the challenge of evangelising in cultures which question pretty much everything. He has as an interest in fast cars and sustainability, enlivened when those two areas collaborate to create greener and safer options for all people.