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It was a bit windy one morning, and as I sat on the front porch, I watched as the wind touched the remaining copper and gold leaves, scions of the mighty oak, and gently rolled them along the ground. The leaves, ever a good sport and having made ready for the journey, politely obliged, but clung gracefully for their last moments, floating gleefully along the air, to and fro, doing somersaults and spins like Turkish whirling dervishes, as if there was some invisible track I could not see. Their journey was known. Their day was over. Looking around, at my own home and across the community, I find that might be the case with a lot of shrubs and evergreens following the arctic blasts from Christmas week, as the same copper and golds are the color of the season, but people don’t seem to be so capricious. We are a stubborn lot. Change, though inevitable, does not come so naturally. I am no exception, having described myself as anachronistic, planted firmly in the past.
Going about life, I often think of a song by Ivor Novello called “A Land of Might Have Been.” Having lived his short life in the first half of the 20th Century, Novello writes what seems to perfectly sum up the way I feel about our modern world, and it’s not always, from my perspective, a glowing review. We are blessed with many things – conveniences and ease that our forefathers only dreamed of – but we also inherited a world seemingly void of humanity. It’s not a change I particularly welcome.
I have consciously noticed, lately, that we live in a world that no longer looks one another in the eye. We are rushed and burdened and too frantic in our daily tasks to take a moment to politely meet a gaze, too tied up in our own being to assist our neighbors, and too concerned with our own comforts that we ignore the well-being of others. Of that, we often hear a repeated rhetoric, but it’s far too easy to demonize COVID-19 as the society’s ultimate culprit. It had its impact, but unless the particles of pandemic have altered our very values, we, as individuals, pronounce the final verdict on how we behave, treat, and interact with others, and it doesn’t take Emily Post to light the proper path.
This week, in ways I wouldn’t have wanted or guessed, I played witness to the wax and wane of our new world, in the end providing some bit of hope that all is not lost. When my mother, a lady of a certain age, was stranded in Lexington, her cell phone dead, darkness on the horizon, and 2.5 hours from home, only strangers would come to her aid. It was eye-opening, yet left me thankful for the social worker who let her use her phone, the office that gave her a safe place to sit, water to drink, and, ultimately, as I scrambled to get there, a stranger who made sure she got home.
As I sit here, Ivor Novello singing in my head, I hear a longing, kindred voice coveting a place of might have been; a place where peace and harmony need re-invited, a world, even he suggests, that is different from the cruel place we know. So, while I still agree with the ultimate pronouncement – our world has changed – I am, also, grateful for the light that still exists in darkness. This week, in a rare and welcomed reprieve, it provided a glimmer of hope.