Finding the Wizard: Traveling Down the Yellow Brick Road of COVID-19

By William D. Parham, Ph.D., ABPP

The social, emotional, educational, economic, and other damage and devastation inflicted on our global community by COVID-19 is as unmistakable as the destructive vortex of the violently swirling winds of a tornado, an experience forever ingrained indelibly in the emotional memory of survivors. So, too, will this coronavirus experience be etched as an emotional marker of chaos, confusion, and challenge not likely to fade away for many years to come.

In 1939, Dorothy experienced a scary climatological phenomenon. The peace and tranquility of the Kansas home of her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, with whom Dorothy resided, was interrupted violently when a powerful tornado raged into town and lifted their comfortable and modest home off its foundation where it had rested seemingly forever. The violent spinning funnel transported the house to a destination far away to a place called Oz, in a land where munchkins made their home. Awakened dazed and confused from her nightmare journey, Dorothy adjusted slowly and cautiously to an awareness that something was very different. After a few moments of quieting her anxiety about her new reality, Dorothy heartbrokenly proclaims to her Cairn Terrier, Toto, “I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore!”

Puzzled about exactly where she had landed, Dorothy queried the mayor and citizens of Munchkinland about where she was and how could she return home. While celebrating the death of the wicked witch, attributed to Dorothy whose house landed on her, the munchkins informed Dorothy that the only way to return home was to go the Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz. He was the only person with the power to return Dorothy to her place of solace and comfort. Feeling hopeful, Dorothy asks, “Where is Oz and how do I get there?” Responding to Dorothy as if the answer were all too obvious, the munchkins declared, “Just follow the yellow brick road!”

With pep in her step and a song in her heart, Dorothy set out on her journey, down the yellow brick road dreaming all awhile of her arrival through the gates of Emerald City and learning from the wizard how to get back home. Along the way, Dorothy encountered a scarecrow who, to her amazement, could talk but could not reason very well. Moved to help the scarecrow, Dorothy invited him to come with her to the Emerald City believing that the wizard could help the scarecrow get a brain.

As Dorothy and the scarecrow skipped down the road, they encountered a tin man whose rust made it difficult for him to move or speak. Locating an oil can mere steps away from where the tin man stood immobile, Dorothy, assisted by the scarecrow, oiled the joints and jaws of the tin man who immediately stood tall and smiled. He was able to mouth the words, ‘Thank you,’ but was frustrated in his inability to access emotions about the relief he now felt or express the gratitude to Dorothy and the scarecrow for their concern, love and validation. Putting their heads together, Dorothy and the scarecrow reasoned that the wizard could likely give the tin man a heart. So, they invited the tin man to accompany them on their yellow brick road journey to the Emerald City. And, he accepted their invitation.

Nearing the end of their journey, Dorothy, the scarecrow and the tin man encountered a lion, a “king of the beasts” that did not behave like a king nor a beast. He behaved apologetically cowardly but bemoaned the fact that he could not muster up courage he believed all lions possessed. His tearful demeanor perked up when Dorothy, the scarecrow, and the tin man invited him to the Emerald City with a belief that the wizard would gift him with the courage he felt that he lacked. Full of expectancy and desire for their respective wishes to be granted, the buoyantly optimistic foursome continued traveling down the yellow brick road arriving at their destination and entering the gates of the Emerald City. They finally met the wizard who did not disappoint.

The wizard’s conversation with the scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion resulted in him sharing his observations and impressions with each of them relative to their specific requests. Each found the wizard’s observations cautiously exciting. Reflecting on pieces of their stories that each shared, the wizard invited each of his newly gifted recipients to see that they already possessed that very thing they longed for. They simply had failed to see what was hiding in plain sight all along. Thrilled with their aha, lightbulb moments of insight, the now thinking scarecrow, emotional tin man, and courageous lion thanked the wizard for surfacing their heretofore hidden truths.

The three amigos also thanked Dorothy for inviting them to join her on her journey to the Emerald City. Dorothy reveled in the glow of her companion’s discoveries and felt more hopeful that the wizard would extend himself one more time and bless her with a trip back home. Like the scarecrow, tin man, and lion, Dorothy was invited to consider that home was an easy place to return to if she really wanted to go there and, importantly, believed that she could and would reach her place of solace and comfort. Affirming that she wanted to really go home and believing that she could get there, the wizard instructed Dorothy to close her eyes, click her heels three times, and repeat silently to herself, ‘There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!’ Before long, Dorothy ended up where she began.

The story of Dorothy’s travels to find the wizard parallels each of our respective and nuanced yellow brick road journeys through this coronavirus pandemic. You see, the 1939 classic movie invites us to consider that we do not have to go on some yellow brick road journey in search of someone else to help us discover the brains, heart, and courage we innately possess. We simply need to accept the notion that a wizard lies in each of us and can be accessed at any time if we are ready and want to go there.

Dorothy did not start and end her dramatic travels in Kansas. Dorothy’s journey began in her heart during a time in her life when she was overwhelmed by significant chaos, confusion, and challenges, emotionally akin to a vortex of swirling tornado winds. She returned, not to Kansas, but to her heart where she found heightened abilities to think critically, untapped emotional strength to fuel her through difficult times, and unacknowledged courage to respond to life’s inclement circumstances and psychological storms.  

What will we see and discover when we awaken from the storm and inclement circumstances of coronavirus? Will we feel dazed and confused and wonder where we have landed? What qualities about ourselves will we be able to see differently? Will we discover the treasures hiding in plain sight in the social, familial, community, work, health, and spiritual environments by which we continue to be nourished? What aspects of our lives, both short- and longer-term, will we decide are truly important and worth pursuing from here forward? Answers to these questions can only be found in the Emerald City of our mind and heart where our wizard perpetually resides. We can access our place of solace and comfort if we really want to go there and if we believe that we will arrive at our destination. So, when ready, close your eyes and repeat silently to yourself, there’s no place like home!

Questions, comments or ideas for future narratives can be directed to Professor Parham at