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Dr. Wayne Willis

Thomas Merton, iconic Trappist Monk, commented in “The Seven Storey Mountain” on global calamities like wars and plagues: “In spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, the human race can still recover, each time, and can still produce men and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity.”

We know about the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers and the Millennials, what they endured and what their values are. Current students (elementary school through college) may become known as the Pandemics, young people whose lives were indelibly stamped and shaped by 2020’s worldwide plague.

What will distinguish them? What will their values be?

Some, their souls tattooed with stories of exemplary behavior prompted by the 2020 plague, will be moved, as Merton said, to “overcome evil with good.”

One high school senior, Ella Cullen, chosen by her class to give the graduation speech, composed what she considered a masterpiece. Then, the pandemic struck. It rendered her original speech untimely, if not somewhat irrelevant, and she would be delivering it, not in person on a stage before her peers, but prerecorded and streamed from a distance.

What to do? While talking to a cousin, Ella had an epiphany. One sentence seemed sent from beyond: “We got closer when we were six feet apart.”

She began thinking of many ways she had seen her fellow students maturing: planting graduation signs in seniors’ yards, checking in on friends, saying “I love you,” standing up for good causes, protesting injustices and in sundry other ways preparing themselves “for a world that does not always grace us with luck.”

Ella’s revised speech previews what could become ennobling, distinguishing character traits of this pandemic’s generation.