As the virus strikes fiercely and remorselessly without prejudice rich and poor, strong and weak, young and old, the Book of Ecclesiastes brings me deep inspiration.
Today is the time to remain at home and to pray without embracing; time to preserve our health and to thank those who work to save it; time to commiserate over the losses and to thank for the cures. All people should have enough to eat and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
But what if one to lose a job now?
Unemployment terrified me. I arrived in São Paulo in 1980 in the middle of a major flooding. I thought, “but rain is a good sign–in this city, I will plant and reap the victory”. But what my imagination envisioned, the reality deleted. I was dismissed from my first job because I refused my boss’s sexual advances. In return, he found me too snobbish for a woman of poor background, too ambitious, and refusing to “raise” my social status.
For years, I feared not able to pay my rent. Hunger didn’t despair me, but having no place to sleep terrified me. I could have gone back to my parents’ house. But the stigma of failure and disappointing my father, the only one in my family who believed in my “madness” of leaving home at 17 to make it on my own, was too much. Along with my possessions that I brought with me to São Paulo was the presence of God in my heart to guide me in a city full of dangers.
Luckily, I loved free entertainment, like reading and walking. I walked along Paulista Avenue, one of the city’s central thoroughfares, and thought, “so many little windows up on those buildings, there must be one for me”. But for the reality not to negate my hopes, upon entering the Trianon park in the middle of Paulista Avenue, I acquired an insight of recognizing our finitude amid the park’s centuries-old trees.
Unemployment left scars, but my faith helped me face it and like a bamboo, I moved with the wind, never against it. Many humiliated me on this journey and many others reached out to me. My last dismissal occurred in 1999 over the phone amid Brazil’s financial crisis.
In the midst of the COVID-19 storm, I continue acting like a bamboo without fighting against the wind, which is stronger and faster than I am. I’m thankful for working from home and retain my salary and benefits, allowing me to keep employing my housekeeper, even though she can’t do her job because of the pandemic. One job, and consequently, one family, saved. It’s time to share what we have and to spread generosity and compassion.
When the pandemic’s fury passes, it will be like a post-war period. The conductors for the life’s orchestra will need all musicians to play in unison in order for normality to return.
All of us originate from, and end their journey in, the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. But between the tears of coming into the world and passing away, there’s LIFE. And if there’s LIFE, there’s struggle and gratitude, because surely the light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
Written by Celina Moraes,