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The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, with his weekly article for readers

Students have been much in the news recently, including the Government’s plans to ensure that as many as possible are able to be home for Christmas.

Regular readers of this column will know I have a daughter now in her second year at university.

Before she left for the start of term we talked about whether or not she would come home at Christmas, and we were all resigned to the fact that she might not have been able to.

Bishop Martin Seeley. (42938767)
Bishop Martin Seeley. (42938767)

But we knew that if she couldn’t come home she would be among her community of friends.

Right now she is dealing with uncertainty about whether she has contracted the virus or not.

The virus seems to have the ability to bring out the best and the worst in us, as we try to live with its impact on our lives.

My daughter has spent the last 10 days in isolation.

She lives in a ‘bubble’ in her college with a group of other young women, and 14 days ago one, then three more, then three more of them, tested positive for the virus.

As soon as the first one was known, all of them went as a household into isolation, and made sure they could look after the one who was sick, being incredibly careful to protect the rest of them as they did so.

As the number increased, that challenge, of keeping everyone safe, increased, but so did the determination to do so.

When the last group of three were found positive, my daughter had been tested too, but was negative.

So she took herself into isolation within the isolating group, so finding herself doubly isolated.

And to protect herself for the sake of her colleagues – if she caught the virus then the time delay would mean the isolation period for all of them would be extended.

A few days later she had a second test (they are tested weekly anyway) and it was still negative, even though she was sure she was developing symptoms.

So now she is waiting.

If she stays negative, she can come out of isolation with the others, now recovered from the virus.

But of course her concern now is that if she now becomes positive at just that point, they all spend another two weeks in isolation, getting out not long before they would come home for Christmas.

Needless to say she is handling this far better than I would – with gracious realism and with her first thoughts for her friends.

Yes, I know they are all being taken care of incredibly well, and lots of people – students and staff – are making sure they are okay, but in just this small incident I have seen once again what community means, and the cost friends will pay for one another.

Changing their routines, adapting their practices, keeping greater distance, even opting for double isolation, has an impact, a cost.

And if we care about our community, we will pay the cost, because it matters.

And I rather think that is what has been happening across our communities of Suffolk these past many months, as we have rediscovered what really does matter, and paying the price for others will not only see us through, but make us stronger for the future.

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