Article: Human compassion comes to the fore in a crisis

Our country and the whole world now face a fight against an invisible killer. These are extraordinary times that require an extraordinary response.

Much has been made about the gravity of the situation we now find ourselves in, the worries about our loved ones and the long-term implications for our economy. But in the darkness of uncertainty, are pockets of light every time we hear of yet another act of human kindness.

Many have compared the recent Government call to action to those calls issued during the Second World War, and the reaction today, to what was known then, as the “Dunkirk Spirit”.

This refers back to May 1940 when hundreds of thousands of our troops were stranded in Northern France, stood cold in the water, not knowing if they would ever make it home to England. But then, out of the mist and fog came hundreds of fishing boats, lifeboats and sail boats, that formed a flotilla of civilians acting to help their fellow countrymen.

This story of an extraordinary act by ordinary people is rightly well known. The Cambridge Dictionary defines “Dunkirk Spirit” as a “willingness by a group of people who are in a bad situation to all help each other”. At the same time of this rescue back on home territory, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) was founded when over a million women stepped forward to help care for those in most need.

Well now once again, the Royal Voluntary Service is coordinating a huge national effort to bring care to those in need, and that same Dunkirk Spirit is very much alive.

In just 24 hours, hundreds of thousands of people across this country have signed up to become volunteer responders to help the 1.5 million who are at most risk from Covid-19.

GPs, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, NHS 111 advisers and social care staff will all be able to request help for their at-risk patients via a call centre run by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), who will match people who need help with volunteers who live near to them.

Human compassion certainly comes to the fore at times of crisis, but I am also aware that Winston Churchill once said “we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. Serving others does not just bring purpose to our lives, it helps save them.