A difficult time in history

Catanzaro, Italy – Photo: Maira Dias Ray

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

It has been an arduous time. We have distanced ourselves from those we love, and we have been parted from our liberty. We no longer can embrace our family or visit our friends. We turn the news on and see people dying, losing their jobs and small business closing. Our hearts cry for those directedly affected by this whole situation. In our souls we fear for ourselves and our beloved ones. Never in a million years did we think our generation would live in such a moment of anguish. And we often question why we were the ones going through this season of hardship, being led to this trial of life. We just now start to realise that no one is immune from tumultuous times.

Throughout the whole world’s history, we have faced all kinds of challenges and adversities. The kindest people have been forced to live in a world that is cruel and miserable, facing all sorts of brutality. And there have been moments when it seemed that there would be no future for humanity anymore, that we would all perish to chaos. Still, we have not succumbed to the darkest times. We have fought our way through hate, misery, illnesses, and the seasons of pain have passed.

The time we are living now is also filled with fear and uncertainty. These are times of turmoil and in times like these we tend to let fear dominate us. However, it also shall pass.

So, if I can give a piece of advice, let it be: Do not despair. Do not let sorrow dwell in your heart, for suffering makes us strong. It is by encountering obstacles that we find our strength. It is through adversities that we grow wiser.

Believe me when I say that you have the strength to overcome this moment. When you doubt yourself just remember that at some point in your past you had to go through hard moments of which you thought you were not capable of defeating. However, you have done it. You may not have known where you got this strength from, but you had it. You still have it. It is a force just waiting to be awakened.

We cannot control the whole situation around us, but we can control how we react to it.

We will triumph over it if we stay united. The darkness that now lies upon us will fade away and equilibrium will flourish again. We will have a future. But this future relies on how we behave today. The current situation cries out for kindness, altruism, generosity, selflessness, respect and sense of unity.

We have been witnessing so many acts of unselfishness, bravery and self-sacrifice: communities raising money for the less fortunate, people offering to pick groceries for the elderly, doctors and nurses working countless hours in terrible conditions, retired doctors going back to work, etc…We can help too. It is a historical moment in time when all of us can save lives just by staying at home. Now, more than ever, we need to be selfless. Let us stay united and there will be hope.

Malcesine, Italy – Photo: Maira Dias Ray

Stay home

“I am an emergency physician. My increased exposure means that I have chosen to isolate from my family, to keep them safe. This is how I see my daughters (pictured with their cousins, with whom they’re staying).  
If I can do this, you can stay home.”   

Dr. Anna Carvalho

That was the testimony of a doctor who works at Vancouver General Hospital combating COVID-19. For weeks she has been keeping herself away from her daughters in order to protect them from the risk of getting the virus.

Every day, at 7 pm, the whole city applauds health care workers and all those who are considered essential workers, such as those who work at pharmacies and supermarkets. Every day we cheer for them, we salute them, we send a message saying how we appreciate what they are doing, how grateful we are and that they are not alone. However, all these gestures, as noble as they may seem, mean nothing if we do not do what is most important at this moment “Stay Home”. So, my friend, I plead you:

Stay home for the brave health care workers who have been working exhaustively on the frontlines to battle COVID-19, being highly exposed to the virus, so they can soon go back home and rest.

Stay home for those working in the grocery shops, pharmacies and many other essential businesses, who show up every day despite all the dangers of contamination, so that we can have our necessities attended. Stay home so they do not have to live in fear.

Stay home for all those who are in the group of risk so they can be safe, healthy, and live a long and beautiful life.

Stay home for the retired doctors, who even though they are in their 60’s, and therefore in the group most at risk, went back to work and in doing so endanger their lives daily so we can combat this virus.

Stay home for those in the hospital fighting COVID-19, and for their families who are unable to visit them, so this moment can pass rapidly and they can be reunited.

Stay home so the hospital facilities are not overwhelmed and everyone who need can get the treatment necessary.

I know it is not easy. I too feel the desire to go out. In Vancouver right now, we are not obliged to stay home but we are strongly recommended to. For weeks we have chosen to stay home and for weeks we look through the window and see the sun shining outside, we watch the flowers blossoming, the tree canopies covered in pink emanating their sweet scent and the birds singing in harmony. Spring has come in all its glory and it has not noticed all the world’s turbulence. I look at all this beauty and my heart implores to go out on a new adventure. My feet urge to walk barefoot on the sand of the beach nearby, my mind wants to rest underneath the shades of trees while my eyes follow the squirrels catching nuts from the floor. Yet, I stay home for our collective safety.

It all shall pass

Photo: Jonathan Ray

For those who feel like staying home seems like a deprivation of their liberty, as an undeserved punishment, I invite you to try to see it through another lens: change your perspective and see that it could be an opportunity to reinvent yourselves.

Perhaps this is the time to embrace the quietness and understand that solitude does not mean loneliness. Maybe this is the moment to slow down, to find beauty in the quiet; the moment to be kind to yourself; the chance to listen to the voice inside your heart and finally get to deeply know yourself. Perhaps it is time to forgive your own mistakes.

Perhaps this is the moment to immerse yourself in the pages of that book that lies idly on the shelf, the one you have been wanting to read for a long time; the time to listen to those songs that make your chest expand with emotion when the lyrics invade your mind and the melody fill your spirits; the time to watch those films which make your heart beat faster.

However, do not put pressure on yourself, do not compare yourself with others. You do not have to practice yoga, learn a new language or any other skill if you do not hear the calling for it. Be understanding to you needs and only do what ignites your soul. If right now you do not feel like doing anything, let it be. Accept the stillness, without any judgment, and wait until you are ready to change.

Sometimes the reality seems too heavy to bear. But within our battles we find our resilience. If we face this journey together and think collectively it will not matter how dangerous the road is, we will get to the happy end. I promise you, it all shall pass for there is no limit for what humankind can accomplish when we unite.

“Sam: It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.” Movie “The Lord of The Rings – The Return of the King”

It all shall pass, and we will finally be able to see, touch, and cuddle our loved ones. We will go on new adventures and let the wind caress our hair, let the sea water tickle our feet and let the flowers’ perfumes inebriate our senses. With time it will soon be safe to watch the sunset embracing each other again, and when the night comes we can count the stars under the moonlight.

There will laughter and joy, and we will no more be slave of fear. Oh, how marvellous it will be!

Vancouver, Canada – Photo: Maira Dias Ray

Nevertheless, I hope we do not go back to “normal”. I hope that we learn that what we labelled as normal is not sustainable to the environment, it is not viable for us.

May this isolation teach us the value of each other’s company and establish real connections without hiding ourselves behind the screen of our phones and computers. May we know the importance of cherishing small things such as going for walks. And when we do, I hope we truly look around and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us and usually passes us by unnoticed.

Once it is all over, I hope the sense of brotherhood will have been implanted in our character and overtaken any sign of hate, anger, egocentrism, and selfishness.

I strongly wish we grow as a human race and understand that nature does not belong to us, but we belong to nature. We can no longer keep degrading the nature which nourishes us. We need to respect it; to protect it. The environment is being mended during this moment of quarantine as human activity has been reduced. Let this be a reminder of how we can affect it, let this bring us some awareness and the will to change our actions.

If we do not, my friends, all that we took and still take for granted will be taken away from us once more and we may not have a future to look forward to at all.

Joffre Lakes, Canada – Photo: Maira Dias Ray
Cajón del Maipo, Chile – Photo: Maira Dias Ray
Photo: Jonathan Ray

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