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“Show compassion and kindness in a time of fear”

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Published on 20 March 2020

Rev. Chris Howson
Rev. Chris Howson

These are extraordinary times. It is quite understandable that our staff and students are anxious and concerned about the impact the virus will have on people and on our futures.

All I can say, is that I know from going round campus that front-facing staff have done an amazing job trying to support our students, even when they have limited information and are coping with continually changing circumstances.

Equally, backroom staff have been doing their best to keep on top of sometimes hourly updates, whilst faced with a mountain of emails dealing with unprecedented issues. They do all this while also being worried about their own families and their own futures.

Extreme situations bring out the best (and occasionally the worst) in people. But we can be proud in Sunderland that we have seen acts of real kindness and support for one another. Students have been making soup to deliver to the isolated. Staff have been doubling their donations to foodbanks. Some staff are participating in mutual aid schemes to ensure that vulnerable people on their streets do not have to worry about getting supplies if they are self-isolating. When I mentioned that I was nearly out of toilet paper, a member of staff kindly left some in my office!

International students who have been unable to get home face particular problems. They have worries about older relatives at home and they are worried about the level of care they will get if they too become unwell. I can reassure them that the Wellbeing team are working hard to make sure that nobody, home or international student, is left without care. If you come across anyone who is anxious tell them to contact the wellbeing team immediately.  

These issues are about resilience. We want our staff and students to be able to deal with whatever is thrown at us in this uncertain world. Our resilience has never been tested like this before. There is a passage in scripture that deals with times of real hardship. ‘Suffering builds endurance. Endurance builds Character. Character builds hope.’

I am grateful for the hope I see around me, as people work together to overcome all they are faced with.

The next few months will be the hardest ones we have ever had to deal with in living memory. I hope we look back on 2020 proud of how we did everything we could to show compassion and kindness in a time of fear and uncertainty. Have faith. Be kind. Look after each other.

Revd Chris Howson

Chaplain to the University of Sunderland.

Contact me anytime on chaplain@sunderland.ac.uk