“And the people stayed home.” This is the opening line of an untitled poem that’s gone wildly viral. Social media posts shared now 10s of 1,000s of times by people moved by its words note that it’s “a poem written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Mara” that was “reprinted during 1919 Pandemic.” But like so many things that get passed around our digital, warp speed highways, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.
Truth is… this is not a case of history repeating itself in the most profound way (some of the language in the poem offers a clue of that improbability). The poem was written last month – in March 2020 – by a woman named Kitty O’Meara, a former teacher and chaplain from Wisconsin, in trying to process the worsening news surrounding the catastrophic spread of the coronavirus. Nevertheless, its sentiment and message are just as profound as if it had serendipitously reemerged from more than a century ago.
By Kitty O’Meara
And the people stayed home.
And read books, and listened, and rested,
and exercised, and made art, and played games,
and learned new ways of being, and were still.
And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant,
dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways,
the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images,
and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully,
as they had been healed.
PS – Oprah tracked down Kitty O’Meara for an interview. This is her story, which includes an added twist about her poem now gone viral… “Irene Vella, an Italian journalist, claims that O’Meara’s work is a translation of her own poem. O’Meara denies those claims. Vella’s poem, written in Italian, is also inspired by coronavirus, but is apparently different, per the translation.”
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash – taken March 17, 2020 in Hampton Beach, Hampton, NH, USA