by John Martin Soriano

A long time ago, when I was three years old, I was taught how to wash my hands, because my Mom told me that it will kill me if I am going to eat with my hands dirty. As a kid, I was afraid, of course, and all I thought it was just a joke that my Mom made up for me to wash hands. It turns out: it is real; it is going to indeed kill us when we don’t wash our hands. I never even thought of how my Mom’s supposed-to-be joke is going to be a nightmare for the whole world right now.

And right now, 381,760 victims of COVID-19, and 16,558 deaths have been tolled right now just because of not doing a simple childhood manner.

Little did I know, not doing proper handwashing can really affect a thousand lives. Just because of a little coronavirus, that can spread like wildfire by contacting with contaminated hands, coughing or sneezing without covering the mouth and face, or not properly disinfecting doorknobs or plates,  has killed thousands of respiratory tracts from innocent lives of the children, old-aged, immune-compromised,  and even “frontliners” (medical allied health professionals, janitors, etc.). The pandemic of the virus has set a lot of divisions out there: cities going on quarantine, people going on supply hoarding & panic buying, hospitals asking for available face masks and testing kits, people dividing themselves into supporters and bashers of the government, people comparing mayors, people discriminating Chinese people because of their bat-eating culture, people who may have already the disease but kept on hiding, VIPs getting on their own privilege to be saved, the homeless being vulnerable— and more divisions have been appearing, all bearing just because they wanted to contain the disease as soon as possible. All really started by not properly washing their hands.

A lot changed as well when this little virus came. At first, people took it as a joke, didn’t take it seriously, because they weren’t expecting that the disease will come, and now, they have been so afraid, that they even want to wash the rice given from donations. It sparked the old family traditions of generosity, hospitality and bayanihan out there. Everything started to speak out more than before, like burning tongues searching for water. Before, people were just washing their hands for five seconds—now, they make it even for a minute! Before the quarantines, a lot of dusts and polluted gases foamed the earth. Now, AQIs (air quality indexes) of the world have been improving. Before, a lot wouldn’t give help for the poor, and now, countless donations have been setting forth. Before, people weren’t approaching God whatever the situation is, but now, I’ve seen so many people who ever prayed rosaries and psalms for the lives of the nation. There are so many new things that have been occurring ever since the bloom of COVID-19—but, realization hit me, “Do we really need for a COVID-19 for us to change?”

Haven’t we already been taught by our parents to wash our hands? Haven’t we already been taught in school the importance of alcohol as disinfectant? Haven’t we been taught in our homes to cover our mouth and nose when sneezing? Haven’t we been taught not to blabber, discriminate or disrespect without thinking? Haven’t we been taught to give cheerfully, for those in need? Haven’t we been taught already of how to pray in secret? Haven’t we been taught of the things we are supposed to be doing even before the pandemic? Haven’t we really forgetting that we should have been washing not only our hands?  

Those are questions that are in my mind right now, but those don’t matter for now. What matters now is I am sitting right now, typing in this laptop, safe and sound with my family. What matters now is that there are a lot of recoveries right now and counting. What matters now is to keep on “flattening the curve”—obeying orders from the government and keep maintaining the cases by following quarantine procedures. What matters now is that everyone has a similar goal that we want to attain: to stop COVID-19. All have similar prayers; all have similar goals. And we should really keep in mind of that goal. We should be reminded to respond in hope, not in fear; respond in love, not in hate. If we want to stop it, claim it and let’s do it.

For now, let me leave my laptop still because I must wash my hands; I don’t want to get sick either!

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