I visited a member recently who told me that that morning he had gone early to the supermarket. There was already a queue and because he knew someone ahead he kind-of-jumped the queue and was eighth in place. As soon as the doors opened everybody charged for the toilet papers. Within three minutes all the rolls of paper had been taken. One family of four took 16 packets of toilet rolls. They dashed to the checkout and the cashier let them through after payment. A few minutes after that the manager announced that only two of each product could be taken – too late the 16 packets were gone.
Another person told me of a friend of hers in a supermarket that was trying to look over someone to what was on the shelf behind them. The person growled at him and told him it was none of his business what he had in his trolley! The friend looked at the trolley and saw it was full of bottles of water and said “I wasn’t looking at your trolley, I was trying to look at those” and he pointed to the things he was interested in. Clearly the man buying the water recognised that he was panic buying and did not like the thought that someone was noticing what he was doing.
I was in the supermarket a few days ago and could not find either of the products I was looking for. But as I looked at the shelves I saw that some were full of products like hair shampoo, candy, utensils, luxuries, but the shelves that are normally well loaded with hand soap, hand sanitisers, bread, flour, pasta, yes and toilet rolls were empty.
It was as if the coronavirus crisis had revealed to us what was important - in supermarkets.
I know an incident of toilet roll graciousness. A lady came upon some packets of toilet rolls but there was a shop employee standing beside them who warned her that each shopper was limited to only two packets. The shopper replied “In that case let me just take one packet in case someone needs the other.“
One of the things that has really impressed me is the community spirit that is developing out of this crisis. The village in which I live has created a community of carers – people who would be willing to go shopping, deliver medicines, be a listening ear and even walk dogs for people who were confined to their homes. This was referring mainly to elderly people who live alone but in the open meeting which I attended, the group generously decided it would be good to do that for anyone who needed help.
One of the things we discussed was how to go about shopping for house confined people. The normal process would be to receive a list of items needed via text message and then when the shopping was brought to the door, money would be put in an envelope and passed over to the volunteer helper in exchange for the receipt. Then someone asked what if the person in the house didn’t have any money with them? And a man raised his hand and said that he would be responsible to pay the costs for any shopping for elderly people without money. He crowned the generosity of the meeting.
Then there are the takeaway shops that are supplying free food to health workers and for the elderly - impressive.
I need not add more examples of greed and generosity – I’m sure each of you could add your own stories.
The coronavirus crisis has revealed two kinds of character – one about greed and the other about generosity. But then, that’s what happens in a crisis – crisis does not so much develop as reveal character.
It is in a crisis that character is revealed.... The great final test comes at the close of human probation, when it will be too late for the soul's need to be supplied. (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 412)