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Paul Batura: Amid coronavirus crisis, look for these messages of hope and inspiration

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As the coronavirus pandemic rolls on, do you look for signs of good news – encouraging and uplifting indicators that everything is going to be OK?

It seems doom-and-gloom-type headlines are everywhere. Even as the crisis appeared to hit its peak last week, experts began warning of a second wave of the virus striking this fall.

So, amid all the challenging news, I’m particularly drawn these days to inspirational and aspirational signs. They’re actually everywhere, especially if you know where to look.

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But I’m not talking about indices like dropping infection rates, news of a vaccine or a rising stock market, all of which are welcome. I’m referring to physical signs – often in the form of engraved quotes on buildings, monuments or other prominent displays.

As I travel, I carry a small notebook with me to capture thoughts, ideas, conversations – and quotes. I love quotes. Maybe it’s because my parents always tacked them up on our kitchen bulletin board. Reading a pithy, witty or insightful observation is like unwrapping a great treasure.

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Engraved wisdom is everywhere you turn in Washington, D.C., from the 272 words of the Gettysburg Address inside the Lincoln Memorial to the tip of the Washington Monument, which contains the Latin phrase, “Laus Deo” – God be praised. Fittingly, the first rays of each day’s sun hit and illuminate that tip. Too bad the words aren’t visible from down below.

Not far from the famed obelisk on the National Mall is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The four-acre site overlooking the Tidal Basin contains a granite statue with the following engraving, a quote from a speech of the famed civil rights leader: 

“Out of the Mountain of Despair, a stone of hope.”

Walk back toward the Mall and you’d find another sign on a random lamppost:

“In valor, there is hope.”

Having grown up in New York, my family and I especially enjoyed seeing Rockefeller Center’s famed Christmas tree each year. It stands right in front of the old art-deco-styled RCA Building at 30 Rock – an iconic address that has housed and hosted many broadcast giants. If you walk through the doors of the main entrance, you’ll walk right below a giant engraving:

“Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy time.”

“May God grant to the living, grace. To the departed, rest. To the Church and the world, peace and concord. And to us sinners, eternal life.” 

I wonder how many agnostic or atheist pedestrians have realized over the years they’re being encouraged to embrace the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.

If you ever visited the library at the University of Texas and looked up above the main entrance, you’d see another biblical reference, this one from the gospel writer John:

“Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free.”

For far too many, the pandemic is more than a nuisance or trial – it’s a tragedy. We see the number of deaths the virus has wrought – and it’s important to remember that every single one represents a loved one and a wonderful life. To those left behind, there are signs of comfort out there, too.

Across the Atlantic in Westminster Abbey, mourners might read this engraved prayer:

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“May God grant to the living, grace. To the departed, rest. To the Church and the world, peace and concord. And to us sinners, eternal life.”

Up north at the ruins of the Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh, Scotland, you will read this:

“A soul prepared needs no delay. The summons comes, the saints obey; Swift was her flight, and short the road.”

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This year’s Boston Marathon, originally scheduled for April 20, was postponed to September. But on the marathon’s monument in Copley Square you’ll find the last line from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “Ulysses” – a sentiment that strikes me as a fitting inspiration as we run the race with determination to beat COVID-19:

"One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will, To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

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