I tossed and turned. Sleep would not come. Tears were soaking my pillow. Helen, my best friend had been killed. Her innocent blue eyes and gentle smile kept beckoning to me. Just a week ago she had turned ten.
Helen had died in an air shelter. I disliked those underground cellars. They were cold, damp, dark and scary. Yet as long as I could remember we had spent part of every night in one. I suppose they did provide some safety, as long as you reached one in time and if it didn’t suffer a direct hit. I shuddered thinking of those who had been buried in one alive.
Would it ever end, this miserable war? You couldn’t ask a soul. Questions of a political nature were severely punished. They labeled you as a traitor. Complete faith in the country’s leadership was a prerequisite for survival.
I secretly asked Mother one day. Infinite pain clouded her face, but only for a moment. Then she softly stroked my head and whispered, “It will, one day.”
Why can’t we live together in peace, I wondered.
Why spread so much distrust and hate?
Why not work together and make it a better world for all?
It seemed so simple and so obvious, but why was it an utterly out-of-reach goal? The very air we breathed was laden with sadness. When was it that I saw someone smile or laugh? I could not remember. Death and destruction was everywhere. And fear, infinite fear of more death and destruction, or worse.
I suddenly sat up in bed, electrified, the first epiphany for a ten-year old. “That’s it. Of course!” I smiled to myself. “What the world needs is more kindness. I shall always be kind.”
Happily I fell asleep and never doubted or altered this first lesson that life had taught me.
Until next time,