Fighting for hope in adversity

Regina’s skyline and Wascana lake in summer. wikipedia commons

Reflecting on loss while retaining a dream for spring

by hammad ali, Contributor

As I sit down to write this, it has been more than a year since the afternoon on campus when I got an email saying everything was shutting down for a week and would then be online in some form for the rest of the term. I remember telling a friend that the campus looked post-apocalyptic, with entire areas cordoned off and empty hallways. He replied that he was more concerned that we are in the middle of an apocalypse, not post. We chuckled over that because really, his alternative was too overwhelming.

Even before the announcement of lockdown and government restrictions, we had been making small changes. Friends stood a bit further apart and shied away from even handshakes – forget hugs. I remember freaking out every time I touched my face, and I washed my hands compulsively. Once the lockdown happened, I confined myself to my living space and relied on delivery services for the first several weeks before daring to venture out. Once I did, I had mixed feelings. It was nice to be outside, see people, and get groceries, but it was also stressful thinking how I might pick up an invisible virus while riding the bus.

I would love to write today, one year later, that we made it – that we survived this nightmare and will soon go back to life as it used to be. Unfortunately, for those of us in Regina, a year later we are not even back to square one. We are worse off, with variants of concern and over a hundred cases every day for the past several days. Last week we went into a more serious lockdown, and I for one feel even more anxious and uncomfortable than I did this time last year.

We have collectively suffered unspeakable loss of life, toll on our mental health, and many festivals and holidays spent alone in our apartments instead of with our communities. However, as the school year comes to an end and the beautiful prairie summer is ushered in, I think we may have more to be hopeful about than we realize. Vaccination phases are progressing in Saskatchewan and, starting March 29, a vaccine centre is supposed to start operating at the University of Regina main campus. While it does seem that we might go into mid-fall or even winter before everyone has received both shots of the vaccine, I think there is room for hope.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, of blessed memory, used to teach about the curious story of Jacob in the book of Genesis. After a strange night encounter with a being that many believe was an angel, Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life. As day was breaking and the stranger wanted to leave, Jacob held on and persisted, not letting go until he received a blessing from the being. Rabbi Sacks draws a parallel between this strange incident and the history of the Jewish people, commenting that “In every adversity, we seek to obtain a blessing”. This past year, we realized how many things we used to take for granted. I hope that as this pandemic nears its end, as we all get vaccinated and are able to resume our lives, we remember that – we remember that, for a year, we were not able to sit down with a friend and enjoy a cup of tea. When our much-awaited spring is here, I hope we never take life as it used to be for granted. That can be our blessing from this adversity.

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