Pandemic proverbs

Caution is the better part of valour

This is my current proverb of choice. In South Yorkshire where I live, we are in tier 3, the highest risk level for Covid-19 in the UK at the moment. And, with the onset of autumnal, fast-darkening evenings, everyone’s just getting weary of it all. We’re now not allowed to meet indoors or even in people’s gardens, though we can still go for physically distanced walks within South Yorkshire.

I’ve been in conversations with numerous groups about what we can and can’t do and so on for a long time, with frequently changing goalposts. It’s all quite tiresome, but I think at the very point where we may be tempted to just give in and break a few rules, it’s really vital that we don’t.

I know about 5 people locally who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the past week or so, all of whom are sensible and have been adhering to the rules as best they can. One of them is in hospital with it, though he is only in his early 50s.

A local friend also shared that her colleague (also in their 50s) died from Covid-19 recently. So, now I think is the time for knuckling down. For considering that caution may well be the better part of valour in this season, for everyone else’s sake as much as our own.

I’ve thought of a number of these “pandemic proverbs”. It’s amazing how powerful a proverb can be as it settles into our subconscious. If someone in our past has repeated a proverb ad infinitum to us in a judgmental way, it can become like a weight to carry around, which is not so good. But deployed sensibly and meaningfully, I think proverbs can bring healing and hope and remind us of the wisdom of our ancestors.

Once, when I was a priest working in a parish church, a lady came into church one afternoon, wanting to turn over a new leaf. She wasn’t a church goer (except maybe at Christmas sometimes, or for Christenings, weddings or funerals), but she knew she had to come. She described how, after weeks of moping around at home alone, feeling depressed, anxious and rubbish about herself and her family, she’d decided enough was enough. She’d made herself have a shower, “because cleanliness is next to godliness, right? Isn’t that what they say?” and she’d come down to church.

My colleague and I were of course really grateful this lady had showered!! But also, looking at her fresh face, which she’d bothered to wash and her hair she’d bothered to brush and put up, what I saw was hope in action, in spite of her really difficult circumstances. Of course, I think that was the powerful work of God (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?). But I think it was also the powerful work of a simple proverb.

I wonder what sayings or proverbs are offering themselves to you in these strange times? I am sure there is wisdom from before for us to access to help us through. A friend shared on Facebook the other day, “for 4.5 billion years, no two days on earth have been exactly the same; we will get through all the changes we are living through at the moment.”

Photo Credit: Jeremy Timm

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