How are you, my friends? As we adjust to the uncertainties of life under lockdown, it is hardly surprising that our hearts might be troubled. These are unsettling times indeed.

Our present situation is growing into one of those cultural landmarks; an historic moment after which life can never continue quite like it did before. Just as the world changed after the stock market crash of 1929 and the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, things will never be the same again. This is frightening, but it is also full of possibilities. As millions of people are forced to focus on what is truly important in this God-given life, I can only hope that we will choose to move forward with a renewed sense of gratitude and a burning desire to serve.

Children have a better image of civilization-building than adults. From what they know of the safety of their own homes, they imagine whole worlds where justice triumphs and no good is impossible. Watch them in these long hours at home. They dismantle your living room to build a blanket fort because they are designing a world where they can right any wrong. We sigh at their childish chaos, but really, shouldn’t we strive to do the same?

Perhaps I have building on my mind because my daughter (who will turn five next week; and I am carefully rationing flour for her birthday cake) has happily selected Block City by Robert Louis Stevenson as her current favorite poem.

I have written before of my love for A Child’s Garden of Verses; I always give this beautiful version (illustrated by Tasha Tudor) as a shower gift for new parents. But it is a different anthology that has caught my daughter’s attention: Poems to Learn by Heart, edited by Caroline Kennedy. This fun collection, wonderfully illustrated by Jon J Muth, includes Block City and many other selections to pique the imagination.

I will leave you with this thoughtful look at the endless possibilities of childhood, and pray that you are blessed with a similar glimmer of hope as you keep your little ones safe at home in these dark days.

What are you able to build with your blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea, 
There I’ll establish a city for me:
A church and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.

Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
A sort of a tower on the top of it all,
And steps coming down in an orderly way
To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay. 

This one is sailing and that one is moored:
Hark to the song of the sailors on board!
And see on the steps of my palace, the kings
Coming and going with presents and things!

Now I have done with it, down let it go!
All in a moment the town is laid low.
Block upon block lying scattered and free,
What is there left of my town by the sea?

Yet as I saw it, I see it again,
The church and the palace, the ships and the men,
And as long as I live and where’er I may be,
I’ll always remember my town by the sea.