There were once two towns, remarkably close to one another and very similar in many ways.
Interestingly enough both were called Town of Joy.
Within each of the towns were many homes and families, very different from one another, yet each was beautiful and perfect in its own imperfection.
Walking through the towns you might hear music, of all sorts.
You would hear friendly chatter, loving tones as well as the occasional squabble and even arguments here and there.
You might see thriving gardens, as well as those that had weeds but still yielded plenty for the families within these towns.
Houses were demolished. Trees ripped out of the ground, reduced to branches and twigs.
All around was devastation and heartbreak of the sort that before could only have been imagined. The pain was palpable. Those who remained wrapped their arms around each other. Black clouds blocked the sun, and these same clouds broke open to release a cold, biting rain.
Time crawled on. The folks in the first town renamed their place, determined that from this point on they would be known as Everlasting Grief and Pain.
They gathered together with deep and sincere compassion. Each understood what the others were experiencing.
Together, they knew, absolutely knew, that the cold rain would go on forever.
They assembled shelters. They understood it was now their role in life to always feel the cold rain, so they made shelters with open roofs, and thin walls to let the rain in.
They knew their gardens would never be lush again, so they gathered bitter roots to eat. They reminded one another of the nourishing meals they used to share and were heartbroken to know that they would be hungry forevermore.
It was not for them to have full bellies; it was their lot to have barely enough to sustain what they now considered life. They understood this as their truth.
Then visitors arrived. They shared threadbare blankets with the townspeople and told them that they understood. They too had experienced this natural disaster. They had learned that if they huddled together, they could find enough warmth to survive, but that they would never be truly warm again.
No, they could not rebuild strong structures for homes. That was gone.
No, they could not grow new crops to eat, they must learn to eat what they could forage.
Laughter and song were banished.
They learned to squelch any feeling of joy because they believed they no longer had a right to either.
Their children were taught that if sunshine ever broke through the clouds, they must turn away and return to the place under the dark clouds as that was to be their way forevermore.
They would never leave this town. That would not be possible.
This would be the place where they’d live out the remainder of their days.
The people of Everlasting Grief and Pain truly believed this was their only option.
Down the road, a short way lay the second town.
They too had been devastated.
The pain and heartbreak were like nothing they had ever experienced.
They too huddled together and cried tears of confusion, anguish, and deepest pain.
They shared what meager, bitter berries they could find as they worked individually as well as together to assemble crude shelters to protect them from the cold rain.
But over time the townsfolk began to discover new trees that offered fruit that was edible as well as quite delicious.
Others began exploring new possibilities for their shelters.
What would make the shelters more stable?
Were there any materials that would be easier to work with?
Was it okay to block some of that rain?
What might it be like to welcome some sunshine?
These shelters, always a work in progress, taught the townsfolk to appreciate what was working, to adopt new ideas, then use these ideas in new ways.
While crying, and offering words of comfort, even the occasional bit of laughter, the people gathered to wrap their arms around one another.
They were learning to stand upright again. Resting often as the need arose.
Visitors came to this town as well. They offered love, compassion, and support.
Then the visitors began to notice a new feeling of hope permeating the town.
They did what they could to reinforce that feeling. The visitors could see the people here growing in a new way.
The townsfolk worked alone and together, sometimes right alongside the visitors, and came to appreciate the new crops that were harvested.
Together they sang their old songs in a new key and wrote new music that both honored the past and spoke of a future filled with great joy.
The townspeople knew they would always remember what they once had, they were determined to cherish and honor those memories.
They found ways to honor their past and cherish the love that was in their hearts.
This second town was also renamed.
They called their town Healing, a town of Hope.
As time moved forward, some people would make the decision to leave the first town and move to the second town.
It took courage and wasn’t easy, but the people of Healing reached out to the newcomers, speaking encouraging words to help them out.
The journey from the first town to the second sometimes took quite a while.
Building a new life in Healing required kindness, courage, and patience.
But over time, new homes were built. New crops were planted. New stories were written and shared.