There are times when the picture of a society comes out blurry, when we struggle to identify the factors and the values that bind a people together.
This is not one of those periods.
In the two weeks that we have been living with the coronavirus amongst us, we have witnessed inspiring acts of generosity and solidarity. Many of us will have seen considerate behaviour in the grocery store, at the fuel station, on the street, performed so spontaneously that it may have felt belonging to an era gone by.
Besides personal acts of kindness, several businesses have stepped forward to help where they can. Hoteliers have made rooms available for medical staff, as developers have done with vacant apartments. Business-to-business firms have reduced, in some cases waived, their rates to support struggling companies and their distressed employees.
Admirable employers are digging into their savings to support their workforce financially even while the business has been forced to an agonising closure. Other organisations are ‘fostering’ workers at risk of unemployment until the situation eventually starts to improve.
The cynic will undoubtedly point towards the throngs of panic-buyers that descended on supermarkets when the storm clouds first started gathering, exposing a collective self-centeredness. Or to the individuals who breached quarantine requirements, carelessly putting everyone else in harm’s way.
Nevertheless, the typical divisive elements that until very recently, and certainly in the near future again, defined most of our public life, have noticeably dissipated. People are rallying around political leaders across party lines like never before, demanding collaboration and even encouraging constructive disagreement in a rare and surprising turn of events.
Professionals, public servants and religious guides have been welcomed to the heart of the nation to do what they do best: give advice, offer comfort and lead by example. Employer associations and trade unions are actively pursuing unanimity and common resolve to emerge from the other end of the tunnel with as little collateral damage as possible.
These are days when the idea of society becomes glaringly palpable to everyone. Our concerted efforts to lift ourselves out of this situation together will mark our nation for a generation to come.
More than a time of social distancing, we are living an extraordinary time of social proximity.