As the second wave hits us head on, Pascal Hufschmid recalls a striking message.
At the age of eight, Gracia certainly thought carefully before writing his postcard. He had an important message to convey and he took the trouble to do it right: the writing is carefully done; the words are weighed, and the challenges of French grammar are fully met.
I remember when I first read his message. It was exactly a year ago. We had just invited 1000 students aged 8 to 14 to write a personal message on the back of a postcard from the Museum to share an idea, a wish or a fear about the state of the world with the 2500 participants at the 33rd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. We were receiving the first postcards – hundreds in total – and preparing to slip them into the welcome bags of speakers from around the world.
When I saw Gracia’s phrase, I stopped for a moment. It was impossible not to succumb to the force of its obviousness and admire its authenticity. In seven little words, Gracia seems to have said it all. This sentence carried us all through the International Conference in December and far beyond. I kept it in mind for a while, but one event followed the other with the arrival of the new year: many new projects, several conferences, an observation mission in Kigali… then, suddenly, the beginning of the pandemic, the first containment, a thousand and one challenges met and now, a second containment.
I hadn’t thought about Gracia’s phrase for a long time until yesterday afternoon. The State Council of Geneva announced new measures to curb the evolution of the epidemic in Geneva, including the closure of museums. Like all of us, I learned the news while I was at home with my family. A few hours later, there I was, in a hurry, planning the next steps. I took a break, looked distractedly at my Twitter feed, and come across a tweet from Mamadou Sow, head of the ICRC delegation in South Africa:
“I wish the world would be healed”, a child writes after visiting the #redcross museum in December 2019. The things children see when they look at the world, when they look into the future! Prophetic.
He quotes Gracia’s phrase, almost a year after the International Conference! Written in December 2019, it would be tempting to lend it a prophetic value, but Gracia was certainly not thinking of a pandemic when he wrote it. Conflict or natural disasters of any kind had probably fed into his classroom discussions and his own thinking. But it doesn’t matter: his sentence does indeed say it all about 2020.
We, too, would all like the world to be healed. For more than eight months now, hardship and uncertainty have been part of our daily lives. As this second wave hits us hard, I remain confident that we will all find a way to recover. The Museum must now close its doors, but it remains at your side, in solidarity and kindness. See you online!
Take good care of yourself and others