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Chatterbox: Strength in the darkness


Chatterbox is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. I confess, “Forrest Gump” wasn’t my box of chocolates; I couldn’t get through it, but it birthed some classic lines and this one works today for Chatterbox, as we resurrect the painful COVID-19 epidemic.

Recently, I watched an amazing documentary titled, “Florence, in a Glass Ball.” I couldn’t manipulate my television’s subtitle system and it was all in Italian, which I do not speak, but its visual images were very clear. It was about Florence, during COVID. It was heart-wrenching, inspiring, and frightening. Most impressive, however, was the feeling of hope it created by demonstrating the sheer miracle of the human spirit; that spirit and discipline was seen around the world.

The world is not unfamiliar with epidemics; they’ve accompanied human development. The world is not unfamiliar with darkness; it comes in many ways. It fell upon those who never knew there was darkness and those who were well prepared for the fight: imperialism, disease, weather anomalies, even the earth itself exploding and raining deadly ash. Humans have been confronted and succumbed or been victorious, repeatedly, throughout time.

During confinement, we talked a lot about COVID, its misnomers, inconsistencies, inconveniences and deadliness, but the performance of people around the world in response to it was incredible. Though we all responded to the COVID crisis with nothing short of the best of what humanity exudes, this plague took a great toll in numerous ways. We all saw that. While we were in world confinement, we were watching the human race fall into clear determination and a cadence to survive; we did what it took.

Sadly, we also know COVID’s death toll. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 7 million people died worldwide, including those trying to keep others alive. The W.H.O. notes number includes deaths associated to the inability to properly treat other medical emergencies due to the virus, and that some countries either couldn’t determine, or didn’t record, the numbers.

Still, any number of deaths is too many. It’s imperative that we remember those lives taken. It’s also imperative that we remember and celebrate those who raged against this invisible death as it blanketed the world. There were, in every country, emergency and essential workers who continued serving the people – and people who fought at home whether: working via technology; home schooling; preparing and delivering meals; checking on shut-ins and neighbors; inducing normalcy by playing Bingo or music together from balconies or windows or, most importantly, finding creative ways to entertain children and allay their fears.

Visited by over 22 million people in 2018, Florence was tourist gold – home and an income to over 700,000 residents. In 2020, it became still and empty. During its documentary, I understood a few words: confinement; reopening; fear. Some residents rebelled; many reinvented daily life, like the rest of the world. For the most part, humanity was stellar. We should, periodically, remember and thank all those who helped cut the tail off the monster, including those who masked up or just stayed home.

I wept as I watched the people of Florence exercise in their kitchens or all together on their balconies where one instructor led them from the courtyard. They gathered, playing concertos together on violins and cellos next to open windows, or played pianos near open balcony doors. They sang opera to each other in the evening, even in the snow.

We are a crazy bunch, we humans. Too often, we do things against each other that can’t be explained, but we, also, do things for each other, that can’t be explained. When any of us is challenged, threatened, or put upon, others rise to defend and support. We are, instinctively, good.

We, thankfully, no longer have to think, daily, about preventing COVID. Watching the people of Florence exemplify what was done to keep sane and assist others throughout it, makes it easy to understand why people – even those who behave badly sometimes and buy into perpetuated lies sometimes – are glorious creatures almost always.

There is, however, never a time when humans aren’t vulnerable. It makes it imperative that we remember what we are – all, and always – capable of and that most of us are willing to perform great things when called upon to display those capabilities.