SINCE the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the daily news making headlines have been filled mainly with despondency and gloom. It has dealt with the severity of the pandemic, fatalities, crippling economies, skyrocketing unemployment statistics and the long-term impact on lives and work.

Remaining positive during a calamity is easier said than done when most of the news emanating daily seems to be negative in the local and international print and electronic media. Naturally, issues pertaining to the pandemic are critical to everybody, but it is not important to be a Covid-19 expert nor to learn every ghastly detail daily from dawn to dusk.

Instead, we should focus on positivity so we can have the drive and resolve to ride through this turbulent period. Now is the time to take stock of life. I missed going out, especially with my friends to our favourite restaurant for lunch once a month. Just meeting and chatting with my friend Lee, the chief chef at the restaurant, made my trip worthwhile. I have known Lee for 35 years.

I patronise small businesses, just to support them through this difficult period. Takeaways hardly generate much income, but with my patronage, I can help them in a small way to keep their businesses afloat. Practising little acts of kindness goes a long way in uplifting people. I tell Ali, the owner of a stationary shop in Lucky Gardens, to continue serving his customers as usual despite these challenging times. I see a smile on his face when I tell him: “Tough times don’t last long brother, but tough people do”. Ali is all smiles when I boost his morale. Such humanity does not entail any monetary outlay.

Ever since the pandemic, I have stopped bargaining with small-time vendors. Let them earn some extra money as they can do more for their families. When I collect my laundry, I make sure I give the Filipino or Indonesian worker the small balance due to me, and that brightens up their day.

Even prior to the pandemic, I have done the same with Grab drivers as they entertain me with their banter as well as their serious conversations. They are always grateful for the tip and I tell them how appreciative I am of their services.

I also express my thanks to our security guards in my residential area for their efforts in keeping us safe. Always think of those who can benefit from our kind thoughts and empathy. Many in countries like Italy and the United Kingdom broke into applause to honour their healthcare workers. Regrettably, we did not emulate them and acknowledge our everyday heroes as the British and Italians did. Nevertheless, there were few who acknowledged their efforts.

Retire every night with a positive acknowledgement of something you have accomplished, learned or are grateful for. It will help dilute some of the negativity you have absorbed, and remind you that not everything is bad or depressing.

My friend Naban told me that after 49 years of working, he is finally relaxing. His teaching contract with a local university expired in July 2020. Prior to that, he was working with Malaysia Airlines for 36 years. Does he feel despondent? Definitely not. “I am learning to be positive and strong during this pandemic,” he tells me.

He now appreciates spending quality time with family, engaging in fitness such as brisk walking and yoga to find a new rhythm, meaning and balance in life. Reading, writing, listening to music, positively encouraging and helping friends, especially when they go through trying moments, are his current daily routine.

Texting and calling friends regularly and daily exchanges via WhatsApp either in chat groups or individually with friends, ex-colleagues, classmates and residents’ associations is a good platform to remain positive. It serves a purpose to share good things in life and not the other way around.

Some people have changed since the advent of the pandemic, looking at everyone as a carrier of the virus. When they see their friends and neighbours, even those whom they have known for a long time coming in their direction, they deliberately avoid them.

I can understand their apprehension, but to be hypersensitive is beyond my comprehension. They do not realise that they live in a community and need their friends and neighbours in the event of an emergency. Quite a number of people I know have denied their loyal domestic maids employment, thinking that they are infected with the virus. This is in spite of the fact that everyone in the family has had two jabs of the vaccinations, and these maids too have been vaccinated.

All of us are facing some sort of challenges, and we will ride through this rough patch. If we ponder as to why we experienced a contagion of this magnitude, perhaps we can find solace from a poem by Henry Longfellow, “For thine own purpose, thou hast sent strife and discouragement”. I remain cautiously optimistic, and I still believe that better days are still ahead of us.

Benedict Lopez