To my dear daughters,
2020 has been an extraordinary year.
Never before in the history of Singapore have we witnessed a pandemic upending our lives on such a scale.
It all started from a cluster of cases in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, but the infectious disease soon hit our shores, when our first imported case was reported on January 23.
Not knowing what we were up against, people initially called it the Wuhan virus, but it was later officially named the novel coronavirus, or what we now know as COVID-19.
Since then, we have seen more than 58,000 cases of COVID-19 and lost 29 lives to the virus in Singapore.
Around the world, the numbers are even more staggering. There have been more than 80 million cases reported, including close to 1.8 million deaths.
Over the past year, our lives have changed so drastically, I almost can’t even remember what things were like before COVID-19.
When will we be going for our next family vacation? I wish I could tell you. The closest we can get to an airplane for now is shopping at Jewel.
For the first time, no one is leaving the country for their December holidays. Everyone is home this Christmas and New Year.
We’re still reeling from the effects of the global lockdown and the impact of the circuit breaker on our economy. Many businesses have had to shut, and people have lost their jobs.
In fact, it was only three days ago (December 28) that we entered Phase 3 of our reopening.
Finally, local transmissions are under control and vaccines are being rolled out. And yes, we can now gather in groups of more than five!
That is also why I wanted to write to you.
Because of the milestones we’ve lived through this year, I believe it’s important to remember the lessons from this crisis of our generation.
Here are three that I would like to share with you.
1. IN TIMES OF CRISIS, THERE IS STRENGTH IN COMMUNITY
When our nation faced a threat so great, it compelled us to rise above ourselves and care for others in ways unseen before!
We were united because of our humanity. We stood together to fight a common enemy. We empathised with the struggles all of us had to go through, and supported and encouraged one another.
It wasn’t just about families being able to spend more time together because of HBL (home-based learning) and WFH (work-from-home) arrangements.
While we were socially isolated, there was a deep connection built on other levels. We saw some wonderful initiatives:
- We wrote songs and made cards for our healthcare heroes.
- We clapped for our frontline workers from our windows and appreciated them.
- We delivered meals to our loved ones and those on stay-home notice.
- We went grocery shopping on behalf of the elderly.
- We gave out masks and hand sanitisers to our neighbours.
- We turned our churches into shelters for the homeless.
- We befriended migrant workers who were quarantined in their dormitories.
Speaking of migrant workers, you should know that the vast majority of Singapore’s COVID-19 cases were detected in the dormitories. To be exact, some 54,000 – 93% of our total case count.
While many of these uncles are helping to build our beautiful homes, ironically, their own overcrowded and dismal living conditions became breeding grounds for the virus.
COVID-19 was a terrible thing, without a doubt. But God also used this to open our eyes to how we can better love our neighbour!
If we’re ever faced with such a crisis again, I urge you to look out for needs in our community and the vulnerable ones among us.
Adversity has the potential to bring out the best – not worst – in people, but it has to begin with each one of us.
2. IN TIMES OF CRISIS, WE CAN GROW
Remember our little hydroponic garden and how excited you were when we got to harvest our own vegetables?
Well, the growth that has taken place during this pandemic hasn’t just been literal!
As many people who have shared their stories with us can attest, COVID-19 offered space to reflect, recharge and retool.
For some, it felt like a reset button, a pandemic pause. A time to take stock. A time to confront issues that they had been sweeping underneath the rug.
With so much time at home and nowhere to go, others picked up new skills or worked on polishing old ones.
From one circuit breaker came many circuit breaker chefs. Others started new businesses. Our churches even went digital!
The lockdown also helped us to appreciate things we’ve come to take for granted.
Like meeting our friends. Watching a movie. Singing karaoke. Going to church. Having McDonald’s or bubble tea.
And growing in gratitude is always a good thing!
Disruptions don’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
No bubble tea? We learnt how to make our own at home. No McDonald’s? Who knew that FreezePak nuggets could taste just as good?
When you find yourself facing unprecedented challenges, look for things that you can be thankful for. God can still work through a bad situation to bring good out of it (Romans 8:28).
Adopt a positive attitude towards difficulties. Persevere through tough times. Build your resilience.
After all, trials are opportunities to grow (James 1:2-4).
3. IN TIMES OF CRISIS, LOOK UP
Finally, if there’s anything this pandemic has shown, it’s also this: All our plans can be wiped out in a second.
Our exchange programme might be cut short. Our graduation trip might be cancelled. Our income might suddenly vanish. Our wedding might be downsized.
As swiftly as how the virus swept through our world, we can be caught by surprise at the next big thing that comes our way.
Our life is like a vapour (James 4:14). Who knows what will happen tomorrow?
If you’re looking to the things of this world for security and stability, you will be disappointed.
We could escape COVID-19, but receive a cancer diagnosis. Or perhaps it’s not a critical illness, but the death of a loved one, or a relationship that crumbled.
It may look like we’re the masters of our destiny, but we’re not. What we have is simply the illusion of control.
If you’re looking to the things of this world for security and stability, you will be disappointed. Instead, put your trust in the unshakeable.
Because when structures are shaken, you’ll find that having a strong foundation is really important.
When things are overwhelming, look to the One who is truly in control.
Amid the uncertainties of this world, there is an unchanging God who holds us close in the storms of life, who gives us peace to face tomorrow, who gives us hope for the future.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
“…He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.’
“The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11)
You can face anything with God on your side. His presence is all that we need. Only be strong and courageous!
Love, your Mum
- How would you describe 2020?
- What can you be thankful for?
- What kind of growth did you see in your life?
- What has the year taught you about God?