OUR LIVES have been turned upside down by a quarantine that has extended throughout much of the globe that has been stopped in its tracks by a pandemic of unprecedented proportions. 

In its wake tectonic shifts have taken place: the world economy is on an enforced coma, governance has been forced to rely more and more on science, our streets are deserted and shops have come to a standstill, and many of our perceptions have been put into question.

Emerging Class of New Heroes

Take the case of an emerging class of new heroes.  Instead of celebrities and sports icons, or politicians on podiums, we have begun to celebrate people who have put their lives on the line.  People on the frontlines who risk their lives in the service of others now seem to be heralded as the harbingers of hope in a world desperate for redemption.

For the young in our midst, new paradigms are possible and new models of behavior with new metrics for achievement seem to be taking place.  We have begun to applaud those who serve quietly and heroically in our hospitals, in our fields and factories which continue to provide us food, in our newsrooms where media people continue to provide us with updates and useful guidelines on ways of coping with the unprecedented breakdown of life as we knew it.

Tectonic Shift in Public Service

But, it is in the field of public service perhaps where the tectonic shift will be mostly felt in the years to come.  If our young keep their eyes and ears open during these times of crisis, a new set of leaders who will be judged by a different set of criteria can emerge: leaders who lead by serving; leaders who serve by giving with heart and with competence, with integrity and with mindfulness, with the capacity to listen and work effectively with the people on the ground and with the courage to take risks and take decisive action.

At the onset of the health crisis we faced, women leaders such as vice president Leni Robredo took stock of the situation and chose as a priority concern to marshal citizens’ efforts and resources to provide the needs of health workers (Protective Personal Equipment, face masks, food packets, the acquisition of shuttle transport to and from key hospital sites, the setting up of temporary dormitories for health personnel) and the needs of more vulnerable communities (the provision of food, the support for those involved in the supply chain of agricultural products to market like the vegetable growers who were part of the Angat Buhay programs).

Enter the Young

Young leaders in local government units like Mayor Vico Sotto of Pasig assessed the needs of his constituency and  put together a set of priorities  for urgent action:  food packs for poorer communities, salaries for municipal workers in furlough or on forced leave, transport for essential workers, sanitation of strategic places by drone, and other innovative actions.

Servant leaders in times like ours have become indispensable.  Young people who will decide the future are taking notice and their new-found awareness expressed adeptly in social media and talked about in their homes will hopefully forge a new direction in the post-pandemic period.

Transform Pain into Gain

Nothing is guaranteed though.  Young people can make it their task to organize and mobilize, to raise awareness and take action so that henceforth we will have leaders who will lead by serving, who will serve by giving of themselves and take on causes of concern to the more vulnerable in our midst.  In so doing, we can credit this period of pandemic as a positive game-changer despite the pain and sorrow it has inflicted on our long-suffering people.