“People say of me, ‘Oh, you gotta be crazy!
How can you sing in times like this?
Don’t you read the news? Don’t you know the score?
How can you sing when so many others grieve?”
During this time, when we have been affected by a global pandemic, COVID-19, that have infected more than 8 million people around the world, we, in the US, have been impacted by a second global pandemic, systemic racism. The questions placed by T. R. Ritchie’s song “Somewhere to Begin” seem to make a lot of sense. After reading-seeing-listening to the news and so many scores, “how can we sing when so many others grieve?” The song continues, “What kind of fool believes that a song will make a difference in the end?” After feeling paralyzed by the fear of getting infected by COVID-19; after being horrified by the senseless killing of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, who would dare to sing or dream or love in times like these? Me. Please do not think I am being naïve or playing Sister Pollyanna. I, like T. R. Ritchie, long to search for something worth to believe in. As he says, “If changes are to come there are things that must be done and a Song, a Dream, and Love is somewhere to begin.” I would add to the trilogy: Hope.
I have mourned with families the death of their loved ones. I have lamented the injustice brought by racism. I have shed tears and said many prayers during these trying times. Now, I need something to help me, to help us all to bounce back and to build resiliency. We need something to help us to leave the “exile” this two global pandemics have forced us to live in. We need a new message that includes hope. Last April, the Cuban actor, comedian, and screen writer Alexis Valdés, posted a very inspiring and insightful poem entitled: Esperanza (Hope). The experience during this time of pandemic arose Valdés’ own feelings of being in exile and ignited the hope of one day being back to the land he longs and dreams to return. A land of Abundant, Justice and Freedom for All. For me, the powerful message of this poem is somewhere to begin…
When the storm passed
and the roads are tamed,
and we are the survivors
of a collective shipwreck.
With a weeping heart
and fate blessed
we will feel fortunate
just for being alive.
And we will extend a hug
to the first stranger we meet along the way
giving praise and thanksgiving
for the good fortune of a friend.
Then we will remember
all that we lost
and at once we will learn
everything we did not learn.
We will no longer be envious
for all of us have suffered.
We will no longer be dismissive
we will be more compassionate.
What belongs to all will be worth more
than what we never achieved.
We will be more generous
and much more committed.
We will understand how fragile
it is to be alive.
We will sweat empathy
for those present and for those gone.
We will miss the old man
that would ask us for some coins
at the corner store
and we didn't even know his name
though he was always there by our side.
Maybe the poor old man
was God in disguise.
I never asked his name
because I was always in a hurry
And everything will be a miracle
and everything will be a legacy
and life will be reverenced,
the life we have gained.
When the storm passes
we ask with a humble heart,
transform us, O God,
to whom You imagined
for us to become.
(Translated by Sr. Marilin Llanes OP and Sr. Xiomara Méndez Hernández OP)