Dear Members of the De La Salle Community:
As a boy, I recall an old Lucanian story I used to hear once and a while about a farmer and his donkey. It seems that one day the farmer set out on a journey through the countryside with his donkey. The donkey was laden with a load of hay the farmer was to deliver to another farm. They travelled diligently until all of a sudden, the donkey fell into what had been an old well covered up with grass, earth and straw. At first, the farmer panicked at the loss of his faithful donkey. What could he do to save the donkey and the hay? As he looked into the well, he concluded the well was too deep to attempt to save the donkey. He did try to lower a rope to grab hold of the donkey’s head, but he failed each time he tried. Reconciled now to leave his donkey in the well, all he could do to quiet the pitiable cries of the donkey was to begin shovelling in earth to cover the donkey and hasten a quiet but certain death. Soon passers-by came to help the farmer in his need, and they too began to push dirt into the abandoned well. What was the donkey doing? Calling on his instincts for survival, the donkey determined that as the dirt was sent into the depth of the well, he could gradually and painstakingly step up higher and higher. As more earth was sent into the well, the donkey slowly and stubbornly raised himself closer to the aperture of the well. Little by little, the donkey could see the sunlight and eventually, the farmer spotted the donkey and understood the genius of his four-footed friend. Once the donkey determined he could jump out of the whole, he took a great leap and exited the well and escaped his untimely and premature fate. There standing again with his owner, the farmer, the two hastened without any further ado and continued their journey.
Naturally, this old story is a lesson in perseverance. I offer it to you at this time as many people begin to feel more intensely the effects and unintended consequences of the pandemic. A general psychological and even physical fatigue has taken hold of many. The world has been turned on its head. Most of us live somewhere between those who are hysterical and those who are in denial. In this climate, irrational and neurotic tendencies abound at both ends of the spectrum. This does not make for good company. Nor does it help confront the situation with due prudence and determined resolve.
People, even some of our own families, struggle to understand what appears to be an unlevel ground with respect to restrictions placed on us. Here, some think there are too few and some too many. Common sense, fairness, justice, the collective good, the application of science, the health care system, the limiting of assumed liberties, and the appropriate role of government, are constant points of discussion everywhere. There is no shortage of opinions. ( I have changed my opinion about the virus, the pandemic, our health care system and the vaccine at least thirty times. )
What is not needed at this time is more hysteria, more irrationality – we cannot eliminate, as some seem to think, from the world all disease and death. A linear and one-dimensional concept of safety has supplanted a nuanced and more holistic sense of well-being, especially in education. At the same time, we can not deny that the pandemic has had an impact of significant proportion on vulnerable persons, in particular, the elderly and that we should have been better prepared for yet another health crisis, most notably in our long-term care facilities and hospitals.
No doubt, people will continue the debate and continue to engage in reasonable and prudent behaviours while others will opt to exaggerate the hysteria further or, in the other direction, engage in reckless and irresponsible actions. This is human nature.
I can only state that in my view, we must not give in to the clever seduction of the “world” that wants us to be confused and fearful. Those whose agenda is to eliminate God from public discourse will stop at nothing to cause division, fear and bewilderment. At the same time, it is incumbent on us, believing adults, to nurture a real sense of courage and determination to be found above-all in our faith and not in the political three-ring circus of our day. Confusion divides and diminishes faith, hope and charity among people. Unity of purpose and a calm, determined effort will prevail.
Let us learn something from the little and determined (stubborn) donkey. We need never give up hope. Perhaps, little by little, slowly, we can use our good instincts to get out of the current crisis. Certain death for the donkey turned into a way out of the well and to freedom. Perseverance made this possible.
I am not suggesting that a fair critique of the way things have been handled by all responsible authorities and even individual attitudes is not fair game. It is; but now is the day to focus our attention on getting back into the sunlight and resume the journey of life. Scores are best settled in the fulness of the light of the sun.
I do ask, even plead, with parents and teachers, to assume a rightminded and mature posture in these challenging times. The world, children, your children and our children are living in at this point in history is replete with confusion and challenges, cowards and cons. Indeed, every generation has its own set of trials, but the firm, gentle, and persevering hands of a parent or teacher are absolutely indispensable now. With this approach and the benefits of our Christian faith, we can overcome the obstacles before us. Nothing, as Saint Paul, reminds us can ever separate us from the love of Christ. Christ is the true King and Leader. God is still in charge. Let us not be afraid to place ourselves in his loving and caring hands.
Brother Domenic, fsc