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Restoring our sense of service, connection and generosity.

As I write this, we're still in lockdown (albeit Level 3) in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

It's been weeks since we began the self-isolation exercise; staying in our homes and leaving only for exercise and essential supplies. During this time, I’ve observed a number of spectacular things surface, which, I think offer us hope for what might be possible when we return to our lives.

In these past few weeks I, like many of you, have seen residents lined along streets clapping on Friday nights to thank our essential workers. I've known friends and neighbours who have contributed to causes such as the Middlemore Foundation to support better conditions in hospitals for our medical professionals. We've found ourselves compelled to connect with local supermarkets asking them to prioritise the needs of elderly and vulnerable people so they can avoid long, risky queues. And I've set up regular Zoom calls with friends that I usually only see twice a year.

What I'm observing is that for many of us this has been a time where we are connecting more than ever, and prioritising the things that matter. This health crisis is a call to action – one of greater consciousness; to consider others, to contribute where we can and to care for those we love more than ever.

Perhaps in the new world, the one that comes after all this is over, rather than return to our old ways, we are being invited to imagine a new Auckland; one based on the simple values of service, connection and generosity?

Imagine if every one of us discovered how we might be of greater service in our community? We might buy local to support businesses as they scramble to re-establish their livelihoods, or join an advisory board of a cause that makes a real difference, or we might help out with a local community initiative like a garden or school project.

Imagine if every one of us became more aware of who we connect with on a daily basis? How will we stay connected with our neighbours, the friends we usually only see twice a year, our family and our colleagues in ways that are genuine and meaningful?

And imagine if every one of us found a way to grow our generosity? If there’s one thing COVID-19 has done, it’s highlighted the widening gaps in our society. These gaps need our generosity. Rather than waiting until we have the time, money or skills, imagine if we each chose a cause that matters and began giving to it right away, or set up a fund with our children and loved ones to grow a fund for the future, or brought initiatives into our homes and workplaces that grow collective giving?

Imagine thousands of Auckland communities; each one of them brimming with acts of service, connection and generosity? That might just give us a chance to leave behind the materialism, self-interest and ocassional madness of our old lives, in favour of far more fulfilling and intentional new ones. We might finally have a genuine and tangible way to do what was once too hard, too complex and too costly – to leave behind what no longer serves us, and from a place of being human, focus on what really matters.

Qiujing Wong

Qiujing is the co-founder and director of Borderless, a social change and storytelling agency in Aotearoa. She is also a Trustee of Auckland Foundation and co-convenor of the Women's Fund, an Auckland Foundation initiative. In 2012, Q was honoured with the Blake Medal for her contribution to social change. Recent work by Q includes the creation of the Auckland (and Aotearoa) Humanity Project, and supporting the creation of the new Global Centre of Possibility.

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Photo by Qiujing Wong during one of her daily lockdown exercise walks up One Tree Hill.