More than just coffee buddies. Image from Unsplash.

Singapore is now in Phase 2 of the lifting of restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on our small city-state. Thankfully, the imported and community spread figures are dipping or holding steady and many Singaporeans are enjoying the freedoms that are slowly and steadily being restored, albeit with some precautions still in place.

The pandemic has forced me to work from home and although I was apprehensive at first, I am now surprised as to how this dinosaur (moi) has quickly adapted to Zoom meetings, Google Meets meetings and hosting as well as setting up webinars. I even attended two online retreats! As I learnt to transition from Microsoft Office to Google Documents, the qualms and fears that I initially felt slowly melted away. I am nowhere near my millennial colleagues but at least I am not too far off!

But I especially treasure the relationships I have nurtured and had the joy and privilege to be helping to bloom. Living with my elderly parents has helped me to better understand their quirks and anxieties, especially when my dad walks up to me after looking out our living room windows onto the highway and surrounding neighbourhood and says for the umpteenth time: “How quiet it all is!”. I occasionally feel a little edgy but I now understand that this is his and my mother;s way of trying to adapt to this “new normal” both of them have no idea about.

My mother says: “It was not so bad even during the Japanese Occupation (of Singapore during World War 2). We could move out freely then but our only worry was the lack of food and medicine. This is worse than then!”

As I talk to them and do their errands, I feel the privilege to live their lives and hear their stories and memories. These bring me to their childhoods and such conversations bring colour and meaning to my daily life.

To maintain my health and sanity, as well as provide a space to commune with God and clear my head of the myriad problems I face, I have been doing daily morning walks, usually leaving the home between 5.00am and 6.00am and walking about 8km before returning home with a good sweat, and a good dopamine rush. I end each walk with a photo of my masked self, followed by a short video where I share words of exhortation and encouragement. The photo and video are shared on Facebook.

It was not easy at first (there are many things I could do at 5am, among them being sleeping in) but I have grown to love walking in the cool morning air and posting the photos and videos makes my day.

Since January this year, I have also been following the YouVersion smartphone app to read the Bible in a year, and each day includes a Bible verse that I share on Facebook and Instagram too.

The pace was almost non-existent at first but slowly, I built up a following of people who have loved to follow my daily walks, Bible verses, and Facebook photos and videos (I feel very odd throughout the day if I miss my daily ‘sweat session’). One of them is a very dear church friend who said he never fails to be encouraged by my persistence and consistency.

We have been meeting at least monthly to chat and pray over our issues, and since the COVID-19 crisis, he shared how the verses, photos and videos have helped him cope with the stresses and strains of his work and family life. I am glad that they have helped him in their own small way, although I often wish I could do more.

One day, as I was concentrating on my morning walk, I was surprised to hear my friend’s voice calling out to me. He was driving his son to school, which was along the path I was walking, and he called out to me.

He later sent me a WhatsApp message stating how meaningful that interaction was to him. Since then, we meet every weekday morning for a short meet and greet as he drives his son to school. Those meetings have grown to include regular lunch meetings too.

“How joyful it is to meet you every day brother! We must never take our friendship for granted!” he shared on WhatsApp recently. And so we have.

My Instagram posts soon attracted the attention of another dear friend whom I had lost contact for several years. Imagine my surprise when I saw an Instagram post from Dubai – she was replying to my IG post and it was not long before we reconnected.

“Thank you Universe that we could reconnect!” she IGed me once. And I agree!

Stronger familial ties, a rekindled friendship and a rejuvenating friendship – the poet was right when he said that “the world is so full of a number of things that we should all be as happy as kings!”.