Rising to the Occasion: The Heroes of COVID-19

COVID-19 is a historic event prompting even more historic events. It is a world tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes, and fortunately or unfortunately, it has given us a rare glimpse of how humanity responds to tragedy. It has become the stage for ordinary human beings to become extraordinary. Seldom has the world needed the bravery of ordinary people the way it does now during this COVID-19 pandemic. Incredibly, the burden of this virus is being carried by some of the most unlikely people — people who have risen to the occasion as the heroes of COVID-19.

Character shows in a crisis. Crises expose the flaws and strengths of humanity. Faced with life and death choices, we expose who we truly are when adrenaline rushes to do its job and gives us strength, numbing us to pain. It always does the job of showing us in our unbridled form. Then we are truly exposed as to who we — heroes or shameless cowards.

Heroism by its nature is not thrust on the willing. It is the selfless acts that occur under excruciating circumstances that illicit admiration and devotion. Humans are prone to praise talented and gifted as heroic, but the COVID-19 pandemic shows us that heroism is found in the most mundane jobs and most unassuming characters. The pandemic has us questioning the parameters we have used to delineate past acts of heroism.

I could not help but admire a young cashier during the only grocery run l have been able to do since our lockdown began here in Zimbabwe. Wearing her mask and facing daunting lines hardly observing social distancing as customers waited to pay for their hard-fought bag of subsidized mealie meal, the girl was going about her job as usual, oblivious to the potential danger she might be in because of the many people passing by her till. l looked at her youth and felt a pang in my heart. She represented so many frontline workers deemed essential, and my assertion is she was a heroine etched out by this ravaging disease.

Clad in personal protective equipment and sometimes without its benefit, it will take a long time for us to erase the pictures of doctors and nurses heading towards the frontlines to fight the virus while the rest of us are cooped up in our homes. Despite fearing for their own lives and loved ones, doctors, nurses and all medical staff have done the selfless act and stood to defend human kind from this invisible enemy. We have indeed seen the new faces of heroism. We are grateful and know that some have lost their lives to save other lives.

Acts of kindness, of generosity, have cropped up around the world to meet the challenging times. People have made meals for neighbours, others have sewn masks, and still others have prayed or fed animals. Who can forget the musicians on balconies, the virtual DJs and parents playing full-time host to their children. Heroes and heroines of our time.

Sadly, many have been heroes in their own death. Alienated from family and loved ones, unable to touch and see the comforting looks of children, wife or husband, girlfriend, boyfriend or minister, most endured a difficult death fighting for breath. Although they could not beat the disease, they endured what most of us could not bear had we been put in their shoes. For that, they are heroes.

Heroism is staying home when you are being urged to do so, when the sun is beckoning in the parks. Heroism is going hungry because your only source of income has been taken away by a lockdown. Heroism is remembering your neighbour, rallying around each other and sharing the little we have. Heroism is rising to the occasion of coronavirus and having risen, remain standing until the fight over this scourge is won.

Source: Sefelepelo Sebata, Mentor, Rise N Shine, outside Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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