By Jim Bell, CEO, Siloam Mission

** This column first appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press **

There’s no denying it.

Many of us feel anxious and stressed about the coronavirus situation.

Even though restrictions are slowly lifting, we know there is a long road ahead, and all of us will need to continue to be vigilant. The world we once knew doesn’t seem as whole anymore. The future seems uncertain. And it’s ok to grieve that loss.

But in these last few weeks, I’ve also seen people’s compassion shine through. I’ve seen generous neighbours working to share resources so that no one goes without what they need.

And I’ve seen Manitobans rise to the occasion.

If you look around, you’ll find that this pandemic — while tragic — has also brought out the best in many of us.

For one, the fact that most of us got on board with social distancing and staying at home has undoubtedly saved hundreds — if not thousands — of lives.

I know it’s not easy, especially for Manitobans who are such outdoorsy folks.

And while some may see this shared sacrifice as an individual injustice robbing them of their freedom, most of us see it as a necessary inconvenience to keep everyone healthy.

Not only do we have to do it, we want to do it to help save lives.

Secondly, I think many of us have already become better people, better spouses, better parents and better citizens because of our new situation.

By and large, we’ve all been given a chance to slow down for a minute. Re-evaluate our lives. Take pause and reflect on what is most important.

Many of us have learned to appreciate and value our relationships with family and friends even more than before. And some of us have realized our many privileges that we take for granted.

It’s true, there are many people who are stuck at home in hard situations. My heart breaks for the people and children suffering in an abusive household, with seemingly no way out right now.

But it’s also true that many of us have been given a chance to grow closer to our families. To see this time for what it is: a scary health emergency that pulls us all closer.

Personally, I have counted my blessings over and over during the last few weeks. I have grown even more grateful for my family, but also for my community — a community like no other in the world.

Take for example the caremongering. Perfect strangers are organizing food drives, clothing drives, grocery trips for seniors and at-home-deliveries for those who are at risk.

Businesses are foregoing business as usual to make hand sanitizer, protective equipment for healthcare workers, masks and more.

United against a common foe, with a common purpose to help everyone make it to the other side of this, Manitobans are pulling together like never before. Already we are doing so much more together than we could ever on our own.

At Siloam Mission, we have been reminded of the incredible generosity of kind and caring Manitobans who have jumped to our rescue.

Make no mistake; this is the greatest challenge we have ever faced.

We have been forced to cancel crucial fundraising events and food collection efforts across the province. We can no longer engage thousands of volunteers who are at the core of what we do.

And the virus is already forcing many to the edge of homelessness by devastating their income. If this keeps up, I don’t know what we will do.

But I do know that Canada’s most generous and community-minded people — Manitobans — will step up, as they already have.

There is an old saying that stipulates the true measure of a society can be found in how well it treats its weakest members.

Right now, the measure of Manitobans is characterized by strong resolve and quiet self-discipline. We are flattening the curve.

And when we make it to the other side of this, and succeed in having protected our most vulnerable, the victory will belong to all of us.

My prayer is that those who will come after us will look back at this time and learn from the way we banded together to protect the weak and vulnerable.