“Screw you, 2016. What more do you want? Bring it!” An angry Facebook post read as a famous American actress was reported hospitalized in the final days of 2016. News of the celebrity’s condition, which stabilized as of this writing, would add to the already unbearable year that took beloved icons in music, arts, movies and sports – disciplines that us humans regale ourselves with to escape the harshness of life.
The exhaustion over the year past as it dwindled in its last few days was too awful to many people who could no longer bear another possible loss, or another news of violence.
Around the globe, the year that passed was riddled with terror attacks and bombings from France to Syria, massacres and shootings that rekindled debates on race, religion and gender rights, a perplexing virus, and elections that paved the way for unconventional candidates who threaten rather than advance the world’s state of affairs.
The US failed the chance to elect its first female president. In the Philippines where I live, the new president who promised change instead created an environment of bloodshed and tyranny. In Europe, the breakaway of England in the EU triggered a political and financial mess that will continue to resonate around the world.
Dreadful. Horrendous. Upsetting. As the year 2016 drew to a close, the words and images came crashing down.
In elementary school I had this toy – a white board with a plastic sheet on it. You can write or draw something but if you didn’t like what you wrote or drew, you can lift the plastic sheet and it erases everything. You can start anew. It always felt good to do that. I don’t see that toy anymore in today’s generation of kids. I think it was called magic slate.
All of us want to do that – do magic and start anew. Erase little ugly parts of ourselves and our world and then build something again. Chase the darkness away. Let the horrible things die and take a long rest.
But if we looked closer, there were faint flickers and gentle pulses that happened, and these should help us herald 2017.
Do you remember Omran Daqneesh, the five-year-old Syrian boy who gained media attention after footage of him injured in an air strike appeared on the internet, looking shocked and bloodied after being dragged from the rubble of his home? The international outrage his picture caused has sparked kindness in Alex, a six-year-old American boy who wrote a letter to President Obama asking that his family take Omran to live with them.
Alex enumerated all the things Omran can have and play with, aside from a warm home, friendship with other children and a chance to learn a language other than what he was speaking. “My sister can collect butterflies and fireflies for him,” Alex said in his letter.
When the people in Syria started saying their final goodbyes in videos that were difficult to watch but were shared worldwide, the world didn’t stop. Last I looked, they were evacuated to safer conditions. The pictures of children all safe bundled up in the cold weather were all the world needed before it had to bid farewell to a bad year.
While children have become the innocent casualties of political upheavals created by the grown-ups, it is still the children who create a world of kindness, a flicker of humanity for us. We just need to look and listen. When we see death and destruction, they see butterflies and fireflies. They can provide us with our search for the mantras to finding happiness, the how to’s of making good beginnings and endings, and being part of the process and owning it.
(Diana G. Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila.)