Walter Kostner shares an appropriate story for these times, with his own illustrations.
[Published in New City Magazine – May 2020]
It was May 2050. On a bench in the backyard, a grandfather was telling a true story to his seven-year-old grandson.
Do you know Julian that many years ago, in 2020 there was a great pandemic?
Grandfather, what’s a pandemic?
It was a disease that had spread quickly throughout the world. Many people died. People were afraid. Everyone was locked up in the house for fear of catching the virus, or coronavirus, as they called it.
The world in previous years was in a bad way – almost everything was governed by money. We raced like mad to compete, some people accumulated crazy sums. The poor were getting poorer and the rich were getting richer.
The planet suffered from it and the earth’s climate rose. Few people cared: people exploited its resources without thinking about what would be left for future generations. We wanted everything now!
There were very poor countries and others very rich, even if the rich and poor were spread throughout the world. But the worst thing was that many people had lost the ability to share the pain of others, they had become selfish, they thought only of themselves and perhaps their own families, or their friends.
Then they bought and bought many useless things and – think how we were then – we still used plastic and threw it in with the rubbish. The seas were covered with plastic islands, fish and animals became extinct.
I’m not going to tell you about nuclear weapons, but they were still there. Think that only with few of those bombs you could have destroyed the planet, but there were more than 15,000 of them! Madness!
They were all a bit strange! Grandfather, were you also like that?
You know Julian I saw that things were not going well but it seemed that nothing could be done!
Most people thought the same.
There were those who tried to do something but it always seemed to be just a drop in the ocean. I also tried to do something but it seemed impossible to change anything in that world.
Until the coronavirus pandemic arrived.
You had to stay indoors for weeks, months – you could only go out briefly to buy things to eat. Everything else was closed. News about the virus was broadcast all day long which just made people panic more.
There were some very sad things: you could not accompany loved ones to the hospital. You had to let them die alone and weren’t even able to attend their funerals.
In order to support one another, people called their relatives who might be far away because one could not travel. They called friends, even friends who they hadn’t talked to for years. Everyone was in the same boat and so, little by little, a current of empathy began to circulate.
It means to feel, to understand what others are feeling. A nicer and easier word would be ‘love’. However, to love – it’s not enough just to feel how others feel. This might be the first step, but it takes more: you have to do something practical for them.
This, in fact, happened later. Neighbours living in the same block of flats began to greet each other at a distance from their balconies. There were also those who prayed together on the stairs within the apartments.
We all felt drawn together by this situation. Many began to pray more, especially together, perhaps connected by TV or other media of those times.
Then they started to help each other by shopping, going to the chemist, especially for the elderly and those with disabilities, always maintaining a safe distance so as not to spread the virus. And then a chain of love was put in place, a thousand ways were found to help and support each other. This love grew day by day. Someone even played the saxophone from their balcony to cheer up the whole street. There were also those who risked their lives for others: doctors, nurses to supermarket workers…
All this made us reflect: but why had we been so selfish, so greedy about possessions and money? We did everything wrong. We thought that money would make us happy and we forgot that what makes us happy is love.
Since that time the world has changed.
The pandemic lasted a few months, then people were able to go out again and everyone was happy to meet one another, to hug, to walk on the grass in the park…
Seems like a fairy tale!