Anyone who’s ever had a full blown, head on, entire family collision with the norovirus will know that it is a force to be reckoned with. You’ll know how it couldn’t give a monkeys whether it’s Christmas Day (as was once the case for me), your birthday or your wedding day.
It couldn’t give a hoot how rigorously you’ve tried to disinfect every surface in sight, and remove every invisible virus containing particle. Because when the norovirus descends, it has only one job, and that’s to spread. Quickly, effectively and completely, until every family member is a pale shadow of their former selves.
It’s utterly indiscriminate, and by extension, a great leveler, because if you’re in possession of bowels and a stomach then you’re in its sights. No one is more or less deserving of becoming its next host. It’s just doing what it exists to do. To move from one person to the next.
It couldn’t care less about the mess, the inconvenience, the cancelled plans, the disrupted lives, and the destroyed soft furnishings it leaves in its wake. It doesn’t care whether your carpet is brand new, or your bedding freshly changed. It doesn’t care whether you’re a high court judge, a white van man or a 5 year old. It’s got a job to do, and dammit if it doesn’t do it extraordinarily well.
Viruses are as unsettling in the harm they threaten to do us, as they are in the reminder that we are all equally vulnerable.
We’re so strongly entrenched in seeing the world in terms of “us” and “them”, building imaginary boxes around ourselves, putting up borders, defining ourselves in terms of who we’re not, rather than who we are. We’re so deeply invested in maintaining the divisions between us – our homes, our countries, our monies, our food – the things that provide us with an illusion of safety, stability and of belonging to a person or a place.
But viruses destroy that illusion – and then some.
They serve as a reminder that in fact, we all belong to one another.
When the norovirus strikes (or an outbreak like Ebola) we’re given a deeply unsettling reminder that we are all connected whether we want to be or not.
By something that, without the aid of a microscope, we cannot see. By something that we unknowingly pass among us. Something that shows us that despite our best attempts to pretend otherwise, we are all connected. Viruses (noro, Ebola or otherwise) highlight our shared humanity.
But what if we’re connected by more than our ability to contract horrible viruses?
What if we have the capacity to pass something awesome among us? What if we’re able to pass something invisible but beautiful to those with whom we share the planet?
What if we go out into the world knowing that fundamentally we’re all good enough? What if we dare to extend this truth to ourselves, our challenging kids, our imperfect spouses, our antagonistic neighbour?
What if we dared to extend this truth to everybody? Not just the good ones, or the deserving ones, or the famous ones, or the talented ones. Everybody. The dangerous ones, the abusive ones, the hate filled ones, the ones we barely even want to acknowledge we share the planet with.
What if we believed that linked as we are by our ability to contract the norovirus on Christmas morning, we are simultaneously connected by this more hopeful truth?
It’s a lot to ask.
Because you’d be quite right in saying that there’s plenty of people out there in the world right now behaving in ways that are not good enough. And you’d be quite right in saying that there’s people who’d need to dig away for a long time to find even a glimmer of their good enough-ness.
But what if we believed that that good enough-ness was in there, however well concealed it may be?
What might change then?
What if love, compassion and forgiveness went viral, norovirus style? What if we got out of the way and allowed that to happen?
I don’t have the answers, but my instinct tells me it’d be a heck of a lot better than puking on Christmas morning.
And that the world as we know it might just start looking more like the beautiful place it actually is.