My four girls and I have always enjoyed volunteering at Willing Hearts, especially during the Lenten season. When my youngest turned 8, she decided to celebrate by waking up early on a Saturday morning (at 5 am) on her birthday to pack and deliver food.
2020 was going to be a little different. Chinese New Year was celebrated under the shadow of a looming cloud of anxiety. The church eventually suspended masses and catechism classes. Daily news of increasing cases of infection and things stocking out and queues at the supermarket distracted and worried me. The circuit breaker (a soft lock down for those unfamiliar with Singapore’s Covid-19 situation) kicked in.
I was focused on finding my own balance – a new normal at work, getting Google classroom up for catechism, staying stocked to feed my children, getting ready to work and study from home for us, making sure family and friends and colleagues were all well and okay. In the midst of my busyness, the thought of the vulnerable – the poor and the elderly and homeless – popped up once in a while, but I was too busy trying to take care of my family and work first.
At the end of March, cloistered safely in my home, now stocked and ready to hunker down for an extended period of isolation for myself and my kids, I came across a video a friend sent to me on WhatsApp. It showed hungry and homeless people in India, huddled together, a large crowd of a few hundred people, waiting for the one meal they would receive from a soup kitchen delivery that day. They were labourers who had lost their jobs during the lockdown ordered, stranded and unable to return to their villages because rail transportation was also suspended. It was a very heart wrenching video to watch.
And I became so aware (and a little ashamed) of my privilege and entitlement. And I was restless. I shared the video with my kids and we made plans to help at Willing Hearts on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Whilst I did have some concerns, I felt with safety precautions that Willing Hearts has taken to ensure social distancing and if we are ourselves also careful and mindful, we should be fine.
Maundy Thursday night. 287 infected. That was an all time high thus far for Singapore and a very big jump in the number infected within 24 hours. Whilst sadly, many were migrant workers, there were also a large number of infections from community spread. I froze and I struggled – to go or not to go? I asked my girls. They were all determined: “We’ll go”. But I worried. Am I doing the right thing as a parent, can I live with myself if anyone (or all) of them got sick with Covid-19? I could not sleep. And when I did, it was restless.
And then I surrendered to God. Whatever happens, it is in His Hands and part of His plans. And so at 6:30 am, we were there at the kitchen at Willing Hearts, masked up, hands sanitized. We sat down and proceeded to cut baskets of vegetables for the next 4 hours. These would later be washed, cooked, packed and delivered to many for whom this might be their only cooked meals. Everyday come what may, because of the people who show up and volunteer. I don’t think anyone who was there was fearless and I am sure the worry of community spread was there on their mind. But I saw everyone giving of themselves humbly and joyfully. There was a certain buzz and peace in the air, even as we were enclosed by a pandemic. To me, this was the Easter spirit of how we come to life in Christ dying to ourselves.
Wishing everyone a Blessed Good Friday and a Blessed Easter!