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Fact versus Fiction in a Pandemic

“And the people stayed home.” This is the opening line of an untitled poem that went viral during April and was shared 1,000s of times by people moved by its words. A note with the poem says that it was written in 1869 by a woman called Kathleen O’Mara and resurfaced during during the 1919 Spanish Flu Pandemic until again lost in obscurity. The note implies that what we are facing now, with the coronavirus, is nothing new – we’ve been through, and come through, just as bad times in the past.

But, like so many things that get passed around our digital media, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

It would seem that the poem is not a profound voice from the past that’s indicative of how history repeats itself  – and some of the language and idioms in the poem offer a clue to that being unlikely. Rather, it was written as recently as March 2020 by a  former teacher and chaplain from Wisconsin called Kitty O’Meara who was trying to process the worsening news about the catastrophic spread of the coronavirus.

If you haven’t read it already here it is.

And people stayed at home

And read books

And listened

And they rested

And did exercises

And made art and played

And learned new ways of being

And stopped and listened

More deeply

Someone meditated, someone prayed

Someone met their shadow

And people began to think differently

And people healed.

And in the absence of people who

Lived in ignorant ways

Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,

The earth also began to heal

And when the danger ended and

People found themselves

They grieved for the dead

And made new choices

And dreamed of new visions

And created new ways of living

And completely healed the earth

Just as they were healed.

Picture based on Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year 1665

Links to my books and social media

You can find all my books and short stories on Amazon Books or via my Facebook page. They may not heal you, but will help you pass the time.


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