I have been privileged to work in healthcare, as a doctor in St James’ Hospital, during Covid-19. This has led to many new challenges on a daily basis, which have been covered to the point of exhaustion by the media, and I’m sure we are all sick of hearing about that, so I won’t dwell too much on it now.

What I do want to reflect on is how this pandemic has brought the best out in people.  I have seen so many small and large kindnesses in the past few weeks, both in and out of work, that were unexpected.

I bumped into one of my colleagues emerging from the hospital shop, armed with a few newspapers, an Ireland’s Own, and a car magazine. I asked her what she was doing with such atypical reading material – it transpired that one of her patients was in isolation after being a close contact of a patient with Covid and was not allowed to leave his room. He did not have his wallet with him either, and so was unable to order anything for himself from the shop. So Jayne had decided to rectify the problem for him herself, bringing a little bit of brightness into his day.

Another patient, who sadly subsequently passed away from Covid, was very distressed as she had no rosary beads; within twenty four hours, about ten pairs had arrived outside Peggy’s room, from various staff members who did not want her to be without that simple solace.

Unfortunately, visiting of all patients, both covid and non-covid, has been severely restricted in order to prevent spread; this has meant that families have faced separation for the first time, in some cases, in decades. Many people donated old iPads and tablets to the hospital, so that patients could Facetime with their families, bringing some comfort in being able to actually lay eyes on one another, even if it is at a distance.

Everyone is much friendlier in work these days. It’s a rarity now to pass someone on the corridor or stairs without them nodding and smiling, or often stopping – at a distance – to check how each other is doing. I think we have all become more aware of one another, and of the fact that outside of the working environment, people are facing all kinds of challenges – from childcare to illness to bereavement- which they have never faced before.

In our communities too, acts of kindness are happening every day. Neighbours are helping each other with things like shopping, gardening, and even just socially distanced chats! We are helping each other merely by staying apart, an act of thoughtfulness in and of itself.

I managed to escape work early on Friday, and on spec, asked my mum if she’d like to come up here to the Church with me to say a prayer and light a candle. I realised as we entered that these past ten weeks are the longest time we had ever been away from this church and its community. I will never take it for granted again.

Covid-19 is a reminder to us that we cannot take each other or the places and hobbies we love for granted; that we are never in total control of our lives; and that for some things, there is no quick fix, no immediate answer. We must trust in God now more than ever and remember this sense of community and togetherness when we have finally come out the other end. He is with us always, and can be felt now more than ever, especially in our healthcare settings.

As a Parish Council, this was something upon which we reflected at our recent meeting. We all look forward enormously to the day when we can be physically together again and continue to build on that spirit of fellowship that we already do so well in Mount Merrion.

I look forward to being back here for Mass, all going well, in just a couple of months, and would like to thank Fr Joe for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.