When the heart “thaws”

A literary contest that, beyond all expectations, not even the virus could suspend. And the surprise of "a flower" which, after the prize giving, turned expectations upside down...

At first glance, the pandemic has turned off the microphones and the spotlight on culture; it has softened the search for beauty, weakened the desire for relationships. It must be acknowledged, however, that the river has simply hidden itself and only awaits a few favourable circumstances to re-emerge in the sunlight. A few days before the lockdown, I launched a national literary competition focusing on "sport stories". We know what happened after that: sport was cancelled and people's hearts were busy with other matters. I thought long and hard about suspending it. In the end, it was reality that decided for me.

Almost 300 stories came from all over Italy, some of them from the red zones and from forced quarantine. It was impossible to stop in the face of so much human wealth. But how to replace the live awards event? I launched a live stream on Facebook, an evening of videos, in which about seventy authors shared many self-produced clips to recount about themselves. I conducted the event together with a friend from School of Community. Beautiful and a lot of fun. But nothing more, apparently.

The next day, an email from someone I do not know changed my perspective: "I wanted to thank you and your DJ friend for the evening of videos. Not only because, as everybody wrote, you were nice, good, professional. But something else impressed me. First of all, the friendship that evidently, even if I do not know you, binds you in real life and that you shared with two hundred strangers. But another thing struck me: even without speeches, you showed us that you are not surrendering to the sadness of the present, that you did not create this event to distract us from the virus as everyone does. You helped us to understand that we can do good things now, not in a better future that probably will not be better. Maybe it was not your purpose, but your attention towards binding the people who were recounting their stories has thawed the questions in my heart and the cry of anger and fear that I tend to censor. I felt listened to by you.”

Read also – Born of a “yes”

"I do not even know who gave me a flower," sang Lucio Battisti in his song La Compagnia. It does not matter, the certainty of having received it suffices.

Stefano, Bologna, Italy