Big I


What if I told you could save a life today? In fact, not one but many.

No, you don’t need to train as a doctor - the method is simple, cheap and effective. Unlike the usual hero act, it doesn’t endanger your life, in fact, it helps save yours too.  What if through this very same act, you get to not just save a life but humanity itself? And it doesn’t end there. In fact, you reduce pollution, enliven wild animals and help save the whole planet.

You probably know by now that I'm talking about just staying at home, but before you dismiss it as isolation madness, the exaggeration of a sleep-deprived madwoman, take a minute to really think about this incredible opportunity you and I are being given. 

I’m sure you agree, an offer like this should be well considered, it may never come round again and almost certainly won’t in our lifetime - we hope.


Enjoy your baby bubble” is what many told me before my daughter was born a few weeks ago and I don’t mind admitting, I couldn’t wait. My world had turned upside down these last few years whilst I responded to Syria’s emergency and I was rather looking forward to a bit of distance from chaos, carnage and death. Of course, the bubble didn’t last, pierced carelessly by a spikey 120nm seed of disease with little regard for my plans and aspirations.

Locked down in isolation with 7 billion people fearing for their lives isn’t how I imagined maternity leave. In my mind, I was having coffees with other mamas and their babies, going to mum and baby yoga and navigating with gay abandon the bliss and exhaustion of my new role. So I don’t mind telling you I am rather miffed with this coronavirus. 

What really burst the bubble, was a conversation with Dr Abbas - medical director for Hand in Hand, one of CanDo’s partners - in Syria. “Over a million people in North Syria are huddled in displaced camps, most can’t even wash their hands let alone have the luxury of isolation. We have 1.4 doctors for every 10,000 people, 90 ventilators for over 4 million people and they are all already occupied. There is no coronavirus response”, he told me.

For comparison, in the UK there are currently 12,000 ventilators and more being acquired, as well as nearly 30 doctors per 10,000 people. The World Health Organisation propagates as desirable 10 per 10,000. And that is in normal times. In addition, the advice to ‘stay at home’ is impossible to follow as many do not have the luxury of that space, nor the financial means to do so.


I felt devastated. This wasn’t new to me but I'd wanted to conveniently forget about the human disaster of my country. I have been here before, life not behaving as I want. Who hasn’t?! Circumstances taking my plans out of my control and dashing my expectations and with it shrinking me to wallow about myself, about little i. After a few days of “woe is me” I managed to squeeze in some time amongst the joy and poo of new motherhood to meditate, pray and ground myself. Before I would have had “strong words” with myself and told myself to get on with it, stiff upper lip and all that. Now I know that’s not the most helpful approach.

When considering our lives there are of course objective facts that in part create our reality. Many people will get sick, people may lose their jobs. Some have already had to say goodbye to loved ones. I know we are all feeling the weight of this and it must be acknowledged.

Yet one of the most profound things I’ve learnt is that life is shaped significantly by how you perceive it.

How we see and what we imagine shape our beliefs and thus our reality. Whether you’re happy or not, successful or content or not is more to do with your mindset and how you view yourself, those around you and the world at large.

You could focus on the 2% fatality rate of covid-19 and crap your pants, or the 98% survival rate and breathe some relief into your tense muscles. Furthermore, reality is shaped by the stories we tell and are told; so, you can either believe the world is coming to an end and sit paralysed fearing for your life or you can determine to make the most of this time and imagine that perhaps we will come out bigger, better and stronger at the other end. 

And so with that, I held my feelings, emotions and concerns with as much kindness and compassion as I could, had a cry and told myself to elevate.

To be my better self, my higher self. The self that is patient, compassionate, loving and caring. The self that is concerned with others’ welfare not just my own. The self that is boundless, connected to others, part of the collective, part of one. 

Not little i but Big I.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was still swearing at my phone yesterday and meandered into grumpy-ville today but for the most part, I’m feeling much better. I reminded myself that so much was out of my - our - control. A lesson I seem to painfully re-learn over and over again. The way to a happy life is to realise and accept that. To surrender to it and trust that though my plans changed, it will all be fine.

When we create rigid expectations and plans we suffer. Flexibility is what you need to win at life; that and an ability to turn each challenge into an opportunity. An opportunity that can lead to our self-growth, elevating our consciousness but more importantly, it can lead to the growth and elevation of our whole community and species.

And it starts simply with each one of us taking responsibility. 



Responsibility first of all towards ourselves. We can choose what thoughts we have and therefore our behaviour. Meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy are founded on this very notion: that we can train our mind to control it rather than let it control us or worse, be controlled by others.

Lao Tzu said: Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

We can choose to have an open heart and positive energy so we lift our spirits and enable our actions. Taking this responsibility was never needed more than now when we are in such constant close proximity to our family, friends. How we are affects those around us. If we sit there grumpy, angry, freaking out - insert any negative state - looking from one unhelpful social media post to the next we’re going to shed this negative energy to those around us and it can easily seep into them, especially children who are sensitive. 

At this momentous time, our energy, thoughts and behaviours affect the collective and never have we been called upon to appreciate our interconnectedness and interdependence more than now. This virus has demonstrated to us something most of us forget in our daily lives - that what happens to someone in China directly affects me in the UK and what I do affects someone in the USA.  

Each one of us, in our own small but significant way, have the power to help humanity, not just survive but thrive. To emerge not broken, but healthy in mind, body and soul having recommitted to our own wellbeing and that of others. To do this, we must each call upon the very thing that has made us such powerful beings on earth; our ability to cooperate. To collaborate. To organise and work together for a desired outcome.

How beautiful to think that right now as you read this, someone is at home for you. For your safety. For your wellbeing. Because they care about you. Because we all matter.

It’s time that we all let go of little i and became Big I. Our highest selves, as one.



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About Dr Rola Hallam

CanDo's Founder & CEO. A consultant anaesthetist who has worked for 14 years in global health. Loves the diversity of humankind and has a deep sense of interconnectedness - with that rare ability to connect with, and accept all people.