It was mid-March. The news about COVID-19 in The Bahamas was in our ears. But many of us did not really grasp at that time what it was all about. The 24-hour curfew was not yet in place. On March 17 and 18, Annick and I had to make a planned day trip to our daughter in Brandon, Florida, to retrieve some things she had for us. We were nervous. We took alcohol-soaked napkins, hand sanitizers and masks. We sanitized our seat in the airports and airplanes. Relieved, we returned the following day.
Since then, our country has been shaken to the core by COVID-19. Some have died, bringing pain and disbelief to families. Many more have been infected with COVID-19 and many others suspected of having the diseases.
We are experiencing something we have never had before. Although the much-needed restrictions are gradually being lifted, the scare of COVID-19 is exposing our fears, frets, anxiety, and worry. If there is a time for people to feel hopeless or weak, it is now. To some the future looks dull, dark, dismal. The stench of doubt is permeating our country, increasing skepticism. Far too many people are panicking.
In the midst of all of this, something happened one day during the first week in April after the 24-hour curfew had already started. It was dark, and I went to the window to close it for the evening when something special and different happened – a gentle breeze wafted into the window accompanied by the sweet-smelling scent of the jasmine flower. It caressed my nostrils with the sweetness of nature.
Wow! Immediately, I could not help but think about what was happening in our country. The darkness – emotional pain, doubt, joblessness, fear. Then the next morning about 5:30, Annick and I were having our morning exercise, and once again, the sweet-smelling jasmine aroma assailed my nostrils.
Once again, I thought, amidst the national pain, frustration, doubt, that we are experiencing in this nation, the joblessness, sickness, fear of getting sick, the jasmine is still sweet.
Then I listened – the birds were still singing, and the ibis were still coming in our yard to eat the insects.
The lessons I got and am still getting from the sweet jasmine are as follows:
• There is hope. Yes, amidst the stench of pain, the sweet aroma of jasmine reminds me that this dark period will soon be over.
• Something “sweet” is going to come out of this. The “next normal” might take some time getting used to, but it will be okay.
• We need to stop amidst the pain and “smell the sweetness” of the opportunities we have. We need to pause and look at what is in our hands.
• We are to be the “sweet aroma” to others around us by providing support and displaying the right attitude.
Decades ago, there was a factory in northern France where lavender for use in perfumes was produced. Each evening, as the workers would head for home and walk the streets of the town, the whole village would be filled with the sweet aroma of lavender that had clung to the workers. That’s how it should be with us in The Bahamas. Instead of complaining and being miserable, let’s hold our heads high and look at the brighter days ahead. They are coming. Let’s sweeten our streets, neighborhood, workplaces, churches, with the right attitude, graciousness, patience and unconditional love and acceptance.
Here’s my concluding punchline why the sweet aroma of the jasmine flower is so pertinent. Have you ever wondered why the jasmine flower is only sweet at night? It is because when the temperature gets cooler at nights, it is then that the flowers can open, releasing the sweet aroma. In other words, it has to be dark for the sweetness to come. Darkness is a symbol of pain, confusion, frustration, loneliness, etc. The lesson is that there can only be sweetness after there is pain, frustration, or confusion. There is no gain without pain.
COVID-19 is causing national pain and frustration – that is the darkness. However, because of this darkness, “sweetness” will come someday soon. Darkness has to come first. The sweetness can be a symbol of a stronger and a more diverse economy, a flexible and creative education system, a vibrant digital society, less criminal activity, greater interest in keeping our nation clean, green and pristine and greater respect and honor of people of all races and ethnicity. The sweetness is coming, are you ready? Remember, amidst all of this pain, the jasmine is still sweet.