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 they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
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.
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