Shortlisted for the Vocational Education and Training Category of the 2020 Melbourne Writers Festival's storytelling competition 'Bold New World'.

Life After Lock Down

By Hung Hsin Ke (Kenny)

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly created a fundamental change to our social interaction. With the spikes of the cases, our lives were affected, and everyone must stay a distance away from each other. No more visitors, no more hugs or handshakes for almost a year.

Culturally for me, this poses the hardest challenge. The qualities that are innate to me, that I derive pleasure from and in, is now seen as a contributing factor to spreading the disease. I came to Melbourne from Taiwan to study about food. I would visit different cafes and restaurants; in search of the unique taste each has to offer. The laneways, the art galleries, and the world-known coffee, are all the reasons Melbourne is so popular for visitors around the globe. However, the beauty of Melbourne is in its people. The Melburnians I know are resilient and possess a warm heart. There are many communities that refuse to bow down to the virus. Instead, they reach out to help, and it creates a ripple effect.

Although many people lost their jobs in hospitality, the COVID-EAD program helps hospitality workers that were laid off by delivering free meals to their homes weekly. This food is literally a life support system. It provides not only the emotional support that someone is out there and genuinely cares for our health and wellbeing, but it is unifying as it reminds us that in spite of the worst possible circumstances, that there is help, there is light, there is hope and for those of us that have struggled with the despair of losing our livelihoods, this generosity reduces our anxiety during this difficult time and it makes every restriction and lockdown measure, much more bearable.

The word ‘pivot’ has become ubiquitous since the pandemic hit our lives. And although technically the virtual world has been part of society for some time, it has taken on a new level of importance since the pandemic. Where social gatherings were the norm of building relationships and embracing social connectedness, many communities offer online events and communication methods, using Facebook, Line, and Telegram, to help people stay connected during this difficult time. I helped to organise an online music concert that aimed to help raised funding to ‘feed their neighbors’. Many artists and musicians came together, individually, and performed online. We had a wonderful night listening to great music and connecting with each other regardless of the distance.

To many people, postcards are things of the past, but not to a woman in this community who decided to write postcards to her neighbors to cheer them up, spreading warmth and colour through a beautiful image to fill their life with positivity. Many others offered to help purchase groceries or run errands for people who could not leave their homes. Supermarkets introduced “Community hours”, that allows the elderly and people with disabilities to shop for their needs during the panic-buying period. We all have the same goal, to reach out to the most vulnerable, as a family.

To conclude, these events are very heart-warming and can help people raise awareness about their community. While the current Victorian lockdown situation has caused much distress and anxiety and wanting for what other Australians are enjoying in their respective states, I have never felt so bonded with the other Melburnians.

As Albus Dumbledore said, ‘Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.’

That light is the light within us, the humanity light that shone in us. When we stay at home there is light, when we reach out to our neighbors and friends, we light a lamp of light in their heart. I would love to see more of these events and know that this does not stop after COVID. The kindness, generosity and social investment will stay with us. Symbolically, we plant a seed of love, and it will grow and blossom into a strong tree that will be the root that flourishes for Victoria.