March 31, 2024

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     This is not an Easter story, nor one of  Passover, Ramadan or any religion except that of humanity. 

     Way back when I was taking photos for the former Rockland Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y., I was assigned to cover pre-schoolers putting together spring decorations in a small building that was once a one-room school in a community now called New Hempstead. We knew the then hamlet as Brick Church because of the Dutch Reformed structure next door.

     On this day, the children, rustling about as chatterboxes do, especially the day before the Easter and Passover holidays, were in smocks so they could finger-paint flowers and other signs of spring on large, shiny paper.

     As it happened, there were two burial services taking place, one at the cemetery near the church and one right next to that,  a Jewish burying ground.

     The children were largely oblivious – there were such services all the time. They simply went about immersing full hands in the slippery paint they were applying. Their enthusiasm, the sort that disappears so much with growth, was full of little screams and sharing of hand and finger prints on their neighbors’ big white sheets.

     All in all, there was ample photographic opportunity and a chance to escape the usual pre-publicity and political pictures I usually shot.

     As I was wrapping up, I saw a girl walk to her teacher with her rendition of a flower, a bright yellow-orange one in a blue field. She asked the teacher if the flower could be taken to the burials, to add to those visible from the wavy-glass windows of the 1800s schoolhouse. The teacher was quiet for a moment, quickly thinking of a proper response. She told the girl that her thought was beautiful and that sharing beauty at a difficult time for others was a very good deed though the services were private and should not be disturbed.

     As kids do, the girl shook her head in affirmation and leaped back into the colorful fray.

     It was springtime, the time of Easter, Passover, Ramadan, other religious moments. The pre-schooler’s gesture of compassion and sharing was a universal gift of humanity beyond specific doctrine.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.