As we all face the fear and uncertainty that spreads along with the global pandemic of the coronavirus, I keep thinking of a wise old idea about the human soul. The old notion states that when we experience a life crisis or a meaningful loss we become either a smaller person or a greater soul. If we are the same after a challenging time, it was not a true life crisis.

For healthcare workers, other first responders and those infected by the disease it is literally true that their lives will have changed forever. They experience the crisis at the level of life and death and all deserve our support and empathy as well as our prayers. We don’t have to know them personally to know the pain and tragedy they must bear each day. My daughter’s boyfriend is a pharmacist at a London hospital and one of her best friends a newly qualified Doctor in a COVID 19 ward so the messages from her are stark and weighty.

At the same time, because this is an unprecedented, worldwide collective crisis all of our lives are turned upside down and altered in some way. For most, that means having to drop our daily lives and stay home to stop the spread of the virus. We experience the fear and disorientation that also spreads with the virus. And, we suffer our own conditions of separation, isolation and loss. In that sense, we have all entered a collective rite of passage that must alter us in some way; that might transform our souls and that can change the world in meaningful ways.

At St James we are doing our very best to hold the community together and teach excellent lessons. This online learning will never replace proper school with its complex social dimension and playful joy, but what we deliver matters now more than ever. It chides my soul looking out at the cricket square with no matches and no boys running around. Cricket is meaningless in the current situation but you take my point. I have been impressed by my teachers who are finding innovative ways to deliver the curriculum.

Never have I been more sure that nature only makes originals and each person born on earth is unique. In that sense, the point of recovering from the pandemic cannot be to go back to normal. Rather, the point of each experience is to return to life as a greater soul with a more clear sense of purpose and a greater knowledge of how to serve the world at this time. The crisis will change us all - let’s make sure it’s for the better!