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Working Together while Living Apart

Dear Friends,

I'm fine. I'm keeping very close to home -- outside for short walks, but no calls on neighbors and family. It feels best to physically isolate ourselves as much as possible at this time – but I'm in good health and good spirits and can find many things to do in each corner of my studio. And Spring is coming! The sun is shining, the snow is melting, a few hopeful buds are showing, there’s mud in the driveway, and the days are really longer. There's one crocus in my yard, and other shoots shouldering through the icy, muddy crust of soil. I remain convinced that Nature is continuing her cycle of regrowth, and that we rest in the midst of miracle.

But -- this is truly a different time. I got a note from someone yesterday who commented, “You are one of the few people I know who have lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Is this worse?” Well, the impressions of a 10-year-old of the Depression are bound to be limited, but I do remember that my first bicycle had an NRA sticker on it (the National Recovery Act, one of FDR’s programs). I was in high school and college for the War, and those memories are much stronger. Boys I knew were enlisting, getting sent overseas and killed. At home there were shortages and limits, yet it seemed that everyone was working together to win the war.

Now, for the first time we are facing a world-wide threat with the ability to name it and receive hourly reports of its progress. It’s possible to read about it and talk about it without fully realizing that it really is Now, Here, and it’s ALL of us. World-wide. We are our brothers’ keepers. What each one of us does affects us all. We must work together to win this war.

The sobering reality is that just when we need to work together, we can’t be together. Social distancing and quarantines mean that we can’t affirm our human ties by meeting together in groups large and small. From my point of view, there’s the incalculable loss of being able to SING together -- that unique way of affirming each individual voice as we create not only community, but beauty.

So we must learn to think differently. What can I do, right here, today, to preserve this world? I can affirm that one day this will be over, and that there will be a world in which my great-grandchildren can live and love. I can show kindness to myself and to everyone I meet. I can try to get through this day with no angry words or acts. I can realize that others are facing far severer challenges than mine, and help them however I can. It seems so little – but if each one of us lived this way, the world would be changed.

Where is the answer? It is where it always was, deep within us. Can we find the quiet place inside where we put our own souls in order? Can we remember that we are part of this same world in which Spring is returning to our Northern climes? Can we sing by ourselves, in our family groups, or on our balconies, to gladden our hearts and ‘keep the dark away’?

I think we can. After all, there are those babies being born all over the world. I think we must.

-- Alice Parker

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