“Tell me again, Daddy. What was it like before, when we didn’t have to wear masks and stay home? When kids had friends and could go out and play. Tell me everything.”
“It was a different world then. One that we didn’t think would ever change. No one could have known what was about to happen. I mean, scientists told us a virus was going to hit, eventually, but humans have a way of disregarding things they don’t want to hear, or believe. It’s called denial, Sweetie. We didn’t pay attention and no one believed anything could ever hurt us. We were…”
“Over confident?” she said, looking at him.
“Yes, but it was more that that. We were egotistical and thought we were untouchable.”
“Stupid too,” she said, seriously.
“Yes, without a doubt,” he agreed. “You’ve seen the pictures and movies, of what life used to be like.”
“But the problems were still there,” she said. “For those who were left out.”
“Why didn’t you do something about that?”
“Some of us tried, but the elites, those who always ran the country, from the very beginning, had all the money and power.”
“They were bad men.”
“They were and they still are,”
“I want to do something about that,” she said. “I don’t want the world to be the way it is.”
“What do you want to do?”
She shrugged. “Make sure everyone has food and a place to live. Books, toys and a stuffed bear, for starters. Maybe coloring books and a big box of crayons, medicine and clean sheets, shoes and forks.”
“All excellent ideas and you know what?”
“Let’s do it.”
“Okay,” she said. “How?”
“Let’s make a Teddy Bear to end poverty. We can sell them and use the money to do all the other things you want to do. We can buy and distribute food and…”
“We won’t make that much money from the bears and that won’t solve the problem, it will just tide people over, like you always say. Mom said things are stmic, whatever that means.”
“It’s systemic, Sweetie. It means the problems are built into the system and all life, everything we do. That the problems are so much a part of our lives, that we don’t see them.”
“That’s what I want to fix and I don’t think the bears can do that, can they?”
“No. The bears can’t do that.”
“So? How do we fix that?”
“I don’t know,” he said, looking at her.
“Not knowing is why nothing changes. If I didn’t know how to make my bed and brush my teeth, they would go undone, so we need to know how to stop the bad things from happening, because this is the world we live in and it doesn’t have to be this way, does it?”
“I don’t know that either.”
“You mean you don’t think we can fix it? We have to let the world die?”
“I don’t know,” he said again.
“Why did you let things get this bad?”
“I don’t know. Apathy, greed.”
“Everything is dying. Some places are already under water and animals,” she cried, “are disappearing.”
“I know, Sweetie. I’m so sorry.”
“Why did you have me?”
“Why did you and mom bring me here, to this dying and awful place?”
“Did you think this was a place for a child?”
“If you love me, you’ll help me change things.”
“I’ll do anything I can, but…”
“But?” she said, her eyes wide. “You always tell me that an excuse comes after the word but.”
“It does, you’re right.”
“How can you not know what to do? All of you. All the grown-ups. How? How could you all let this happen to US? To poor people, to girls and women, to all the people who suffer, to the animals and to the earth itself. How could you DO that?”
He held out the hand that wasn’t holding hers. “I don’t know.”
“Then I’ll just have to fix it,” she said.
“How?” he asked, looking at her slight form.
“I’ll start by believing that I can.”