Original submission by author

My mountain philosophy has evolved over the past 60-plus years, and it has changed my outlook on life. With COVID-19 causing so much pain and death, I look around and see all the stressed, uptight people in the world, and my heart weeps for them. We can’t bring back the dead or go back in time and take away the pain.

Throughout the history of mankind there have been natural disasters, wars, plagues and diseases our ancestors have had to deal with. Their pain and stress was no less greater than ours. The coronavirus will pass. As with our ancestors our pain will fade in time, but we will never forget.

The coronavirus is dominating our concerns and fears in life, but we can’t just focus on it. Other aspects of life are still going on.

People you share the grocery store line with, pass in traffic, sit next to at work, encounter on social media, see across the kitchen table, they are all experiencing the collateral damage of living. They are grieving someone, missing someone, worried about someone or something. Their mortgage payment is late, their marriage is crumbling, they have a terminally ill family member, parents are worried about their depressed children who may be thinking about ending their own life, and there are families with no idea how to keep the lights on.

People everywhere are wounded, pain ravaged, and exhausted. Every day they are stumbling all around us and yet most of the time we’re fairly oblivious to them. Every single human being you pass is fighting to find peace and push back fear to get through their daily tasks without breaking down.

The coronavirus has been devastating, but it has also brought out so much love, respect, loyalty, kindness, and courage in people. I hope once this virus is behind us, we hold onto the positives brought about by this pandemic. We should learn from the past, live for today, and look to the future. The power of a kind word or prayer goes a long way and can make all the difference in the lives of some.

Everyone is grieving, worried, and fearful. Let others know they are not alone. Even when no one else is around, remember none of us are strangers in the eyes of the Maker.

After taking stock of life and the lessons to be learned, we realize the secret to life is to put our best foot forward with love, kindness, and positive feelings, and appreciate what we have and what we can make of it. There are endless choices that many never take advantage of because people don’t realize that life is only what you make it. Life moves fast, and if you don’t keep an upbeat outlook and stop to enjoy it, you could miss out entirely.

There are many times in our lives that we feel we are in chaos where there are dark clouds, wind, and rain. We feel helpless and blown away by the winds and forces in our lives. But beyond the dark clouds, rain, and wind, the sun is still shining and the sky is blue. It is always there, we just have to look beyond the clouds to see it and know that it will eventually clear. This coronavirus will pass and we must always know that every day of life is beautiful. We just have to look beyond the dark clouds.

Some years ago, I read a little story in a magazine or newspaper that projected a message for everyone. I don’t remember it word for word, but it went something like this:

An old man was walking down a quiet street. His wife of more than 50 years had died the year before and he was shuffling down the sidewalk one autumn afternoon reflecting on the past. The autumn leaves reminded him of other summers come and gone. He knew he had many long lonely nights ahead waiting for June, his favorite time of year.

Then among the leaves near an orphans’ home a piece of paper caught his eye, and he stopped to pick it up with trembling hands. As he read the childish writing the old man began to cry. “Whoever finds this, I love you,” he said. “Whoever finds this, I need you. I ain’t even got no one to talk to, so whoever finds this, I love you.”

The old man’s eyes searched the orphans’ home and came to rest upon a little girl with her nose pressed against the windowpane. The old man knew he found a friend at last, so he waved to her and smiled. They spent the winter and spring talking and laughing at the rain through the fence.

The old man would carve toys for the little girl and she would draw pictures of green trees surrounded by sunshine for him and they would laugh a lot.

Then on the first day of June, the little girl ran to the fence to show the old man a picture she drew, but he wasn’t there and somehow she knew that the old man would never be back again, that he was now where the trees are always green and the sun is always shining. Then, she remembered something the old man had said, “We all need someone to love and be loved by someone, and to have someone to talk to.”

So the little girl went to her room, took a crayon and paper and wrote, “Whoever finds this, I love you. Whoever finds this, I need you, I ain’t even got no one to talk to. So whoever finds this, I love you.”

Doing something for others for just the privilege of doing it, even if it’s just giving a little time or a few kind words, makes life a little brighter for everyone.

The government has provided good guidance during this trying time of COVID-19, but the strength of the nation is the love and courage of the people. Never second guess the kindness and will of the American people, and remember we are all in this together — not just through the pandemic, but throughout life. Be kind and be safe.

Robert Foley’s submission was dated April 26, 2020.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Robert Foley

Robert Foley is a writer incarcerated in Kentucky.