The following speech was presented at the Celebration of the Human Family event held March 15 in the Patagonia Town Park

India Aubrey reads her essay at the Celebration of the Human Family event in Patagonia. Photo by Tomas Johnson 

Welcome everyone to the Celebration of the Human Family. In recent days there was serious discussion about whether to proceed with this event, in deference to the many cancellations, restrictions and quarantines.

It was determined that, though the seed of this ceremony had sprouted from the “Leaving Home: Migration Through the Eyes of Children” series of events, with emphasis on the plight of the refugee, in particular the plight of children caught in the crosshairs of the global refugee crisis, we decided that the need to gather, to connect, to unify was even more poignant and necessary now. This need to reinforce our common humanity, our shared solidarity, our deeply interconnected selves, to extinguish the notion of the conceptual “other;” that need is ever more achingly relevant now.

In recent days, our news feeds have been flooded with cynical stories and comments about the outbreak. 

But, in fact, the crisis is sparking resilience, thoughtfulness and creativity. Tenderness is palpable. Of the many rays of hope flooding social media, reports from China and Italy center on how the crisis is bringing people closer together.

“We’ve learned how to accept help from others,” writes a woman living in Wuhan. “Because of this quarantine, we have bonded with and supported each other in ways that I’ve never experienced in nine years of living here.” 

Millions of Chinese people are encouraging each other to stand strong, using the Cantonese expression meaning, “don’t give up.” YouTube videos show people in Wuhan singing from the windows of their homes, joined by numerous neighbors nearby, their voices rising in chorus and echoing amongst the soaring towers of Chinese cities.

In Siena and Naples, Italy, both on complete lockdown, people are singing together from the balconies of their homes. 

Children in Italy are writing “andrà tutto bene” (“everything will be alright”) on streets and walls, while neighbors are helping each other through the crisis. 

On Thursday, an Italian journalist told the Guardian what he had witnessed with his own eyes: “After a moment of panic in the population, there is now a new solidarity. In my community, the drug stores bring groceries to people’s homes, and there is a group of volunteers that visit houses of people over 65.” 

The words, “andrà tutto bene” – everything will be alright – were first used by a few mothers from the province of Puglia, who posted the slogan on Facebook. From there, it spread across the country, going viral almost as fast as the pandemic. The coronavirus isn’t the only contagion – kindness, hope and charity are spreading too.

Another silver lining comes from China. Due to containment measures and the mass suspension of industry, carbon emissions have dropped by a quarter. And some have suggested that the response to the outbreak shows the urgency with which political and corporate leaders could (and should) react to the climate crisis. “It’s worth noting how nimbly millions of people seem to have learned new patterns,” wrote climate campaigner Bill McKibben.

Maybe as a result of this outbreak, the conceptual notion of “other” will be the final species to go extinct; the notion of the Earth and all of her inhabitants as disconnected from our own tender and wild selves, the notion of borders as boundaries defining privilege and the accessibility of basic human rights, the notion of what’s happening “out there” as not being intrinsically related to what’s happening right here or “in here.” 

Let us use our words, poetry, reflections and music today, our actions moving forward, as offerings, as living prayers we place on the altar of unending hope, renewing the vows to self, to Earth, to community, to humanity, extinguishing forever the conceptual notion of otherness.