I admittedly thought I was finished with this topic, but apparently it was meant to be a 3-part series. Why? I have a few people who have shared thoughts with me about this very topic. While we are still tormented by news of deaths related to COVID-19 (one we just heard about in our church this morning), we are also getting smarter, used to reminders about how to stay safe, and freaking out less about the potential disappearance of toilet paper.
We can make jokes about how we are handling things, but the truth is: we ARE handling things differently. How?
Our tolerance for others' quirky tendencies has expanded: A dear friend of mine just shared with me how things that really niggled at her and got under her skin are no longer bugging her nearly as much. She said that, where she used to be annoyed with a couple of people's habits, she is seeing them as part of the make-up of them, and she is finding ACCEPTANCE. What a beautiful word: ACCEPTANCE. Many of us have heard the notion that acceptance does not mean we have to agree with what is happening or what someone is done or has done, but it does mean we need to find some acceptance that it did happen or that person is the way they are. I don't know about you, but all the wishing, hoping, and cajoling have not ever proven to aid me in changing another person. I do not have to agree with that person's actions or demeanor, but they are who they are. I can simply control what is in my own "hula-hoop" as a dear friend continuously reminds me.
Appreciation for one another in the education world: Let me preface this portion by saying that I have loved and laughed at the memes of parents lined up in the wee hours of the night before school re-opens, begging schools to take their children back to educate them. And I have watched and admired passionately the creativity that teachers and administrators have shown in the way they are educating and caring for students. But, as a I had a beautiful opportunity to lead and engage in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) with educators around the world the other day, I heard so many educators say how impressed they are with how resilient not only the students are but how resilient the parents are, as well. One said, "I keep reminding the parents they don't have to know how to multiply fractions the way we are teaching that skill now. All they need to do is be supportive of the struggle their children are going through." Parents and teachers need to be gentle with themselves and not expect miracles, although we are seeing miracles happen all over the world. I pray we never take these miracles for granted.
What's the lesson? What's the blessing? My dear spiritual advisor said this the other day, and it stopped me in my tracks. She was talking about how God puts situations in our lives. Our work may just be to figure out what lesson we can take away from it and then also see the blessing that comes right on its heels. This "lack of traveling for work time" has shown me the lesson in slowing down a little bit. It has also helped me in being totally present in the graduate courses I am teaching, providing opportunities for my students to engage in weekly webinars with me. More work? Sure, but the blessing has been that I have truly gotten to know these students as people, not just names on my roster, whose papers I grade on a weekly basis. Now, when I grade Mike's paper, I see Mike's face. He is a living, breathing person, and having met him, it allows me to talk to him in a much more relational way than I would have before. Therein lies the blessing.
By the way, if anyone else is from the south and loves their southern roots with a longing and deep passion, as I do, you might just want to steal that last point and alter it to say: What's the lesson? What's the blessin'? Then, it rhymes so very nicely. You're welcome.
Happy Communicating, and hang in there. There might even be a How Have We Changed? Part 4. Who knows?
I know, I know. My last blog was on this same topic. However, while I don't know about you, for me, I have learned more and more since I last wrote Part 1 on this topic. Here are some things I've learned:
1. You're never too old to learn how to get on a web-based meeting: When my mom was still alive, Dave and I gave her a computer when we got a new one. Yes, I just re-read that last sentence, and of course it should be obvious that we gave her the computer when she was still alive. But it makes me giggle just a little bit (my mother had a wicked sense of humor, too) to read that, so I'm just going to leave it right there. Back to the computer. Dave and I tried to teach her all the cool things she could do with it, like type letters to us on it then email them to us instead of sending them via snail-mail. As Dave said, we might as well have given a pig a stop-watch. My mother wanted NOTHING to do with a computer. She would press the space bar and leave her finger on it a second too long and all of a sudden, she was in distress about why there was so much space between words. Unfortunately, my mother passed away in 2005, before we could ever figure out a way to teach her how to use a computer. In the last few weeks of online church, more and more of our parishioners are getting used to using a web-based format to engage in the service. It is such a joy to see even some elderly folks unmute themselves after the service is over to say "hello" to Rev. Debra.
2. College friends can have happy hour together without using any frequent flyer miles: There are nine of us who have gotten together twice in the last few weeks for a "happy hour" (I bring my non-alcoholic ginger beer to the "party" and toast everyone just fine, thank you). Thirty-six years may have passed since we all met as freshmen at Trinity University in San Antonio, but I am going to tell you we can still make each other laugh until we cry about the silliest or the most poignant things. While one friend is dealing with "living" with her college students until they finish classes online for the semester ("they can't cook for themselves!" she cries, when we ask why she needs to be there), another friend's family business is taking a hit due to the virus. Two more of us lament the fact that our Habitat for Humanity build that was scheduled for July of this year in Africa has been cancelled. We talk, we laugh, we listen, and we keep each other in our prayers, no matter what happens. We have vowed that the frequency with which we get together may alter a bit when we don't have to do so much social distancing, but I suspect we are going to make it a point to do more than a "once-every-five-year" reunion like we were doing before.
3. Now that people have toilet paper, we seem to be nicer to one another: When we have to get out to go to the grocery store, it seems like everyone is just nicer to one another than before. What on God's green earth do we need to do to make this phenomenon hold true after the pandemic is long past? Remember, after 9/11, how everyone seemed to be just a little nicer to one another? That seemed to fade away after a few months. I pray with my whole heart that we can remember what it feels like to help one another out and be kind before jumping to the negative tilt on life.
4. Remarkably, even though we are quarantined, we seem to be appreciating the beauty of the earth a bit more. I have evidence of this on my Facebook feed (people sharing beautiful spring flowers that are growing in their gardens or in their neighborhoods; people taking pictures of mountains and trees that have literally stopped them in their tracks with their splendor and glory; and the list goes on). Isn't it ironic? While we are quarantined, we seem to be enjoying God's canvases a little more. I run each morning, and I find myself taking in breathfuls of the scents the desert has to offer in the springtime. I hope you are able to, as well.
5. We are getting more creative. I don't know about you, but more of my friends than not are in the education world. What a transformative time this has been for educators, school leaders, students, and the "new" teachers---parents. I have been in awe of how resilient and creative schools have gotten, in their zeal to help provide the students with the very best education they can while learning to fly this new airplane while it's still being built. Wasn't it Plato who first said, "Necessity is the mother of invention"? Boy, if that isn't the truth today!! As a clinical supervisor who oversees student teachers, I have had the pleasure of watching one of my "babies" finish her student teaching in style----over Zoom. She and I were on a Zoom then she conducted a Zoom with some of her students. She has become masterful in creativity and learning how to communicate effectively via different methods.
Will we ever go back to "normal"? I, for one, hope not. That is not to say I'm not ready to go sit down at a Mexican restaurant and eat all the chips and salsa I can shove in my mouth while waiting to be served my cheese enchiladas. But maybe we can take a look at the changes we'd like to keep when we are allowed to go back to our "regular" lives.
In the meantime, happy 6 - foot - distance- communicating to all!!!
First of all, I don't want to sound as if I believe God put this pandemic in our paths in order that we might learn something from it. Everyone has their own belief systems, and I happen to believe there are simply some things that happen in life, and if we have faith in God, we will move through it as serenely as possible. Again, that doesn't rule out dying, by the way. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dave and I didn't pray for me to "not die" from cancer. What we prayed for on a daily basis was the ability to handle each "next right thing" we needed to do with His guidance and without anxiety. The reason we held this belief is because if we didn't, it sort of sounds like, "If you pray hard enough, or you have enough prayer warriors rooting for you, you won't die." What does that say if I had died? Those prayer warriors didn't do the prayers it right or enough? That isn't how the God of my understanding works. While it might initially sound a bit selfish, I am actually praying for ME. Yep, you read that correctly. What I mean is: I am praying that I might remember, at all times and in all situations, that I am right-sized. I am no more important nor no less important than the next guy in line to the Pearly Gates. And so, every singly morning, as I roll (sometimes literally) out of bed and onto my little "kneeler" by my bed, I pray for God to direct my thinking for just that day. I ask Him to remove my shortcomings, so I can better serve those people who I meet along my journey for that day. The serenity prayer is my constant ending:
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference
And therein lies the rub. I can do the first two parts pretty well....it's that wisdom to know the difference with so many things that happen in my life. Is it God upon who I am relying or is it my own flawed brain telling me to do this or that? For instance, should I get my butt out of bed to go running, or should I stay curled up under our duvet? Okay, not really. I am not talking about that kind of decision (although our duvet is so comfortable, we sometimes are up and dressed before Kirby comes out of his burrowing spot where he has taken up residence at my feet under the covers for the night). I'm talking about those decisions about job opportunities, whether I am led to offer more assistance to those in need, what I can do to make education for traditionally underserved students (and teachers) better, etc.
But as we have moved into this COVID-19 Twilight Zone reality, we have learned a few things. First and foremost, it is perfectly acceptable to be on a Zoom call while still in pajamas. Second of all, people are clearly worried that an airborne virus is going to give them bowel issues (thus, the run on toilet paper----no pun intended). Next, and this really is the crux of my blog: we really can make do with a lot less than we thought we could. In fact, there are so many amazing stories out on the internet that I know mine won't measure up, but here is what has happened to Dave and me:
1. We have been asked (maybe because we are about 10 - 15 years younger than the average parishioners at our church) to step up to the plate and help out a bit more. Each Sunday, a VERY skeletal crew goes to church to set up for Facebook Live and a webinar version of church. While I used to do the readings (from the Gospel, etc.), I have been asked to "man" the Zoom chat for parishioners who need help getting on, etc. And Dave is now reading! Wait, that sounded bad, didn't it---like, "Look, you guys, Dave has actually learned to read! Well done, bloke!" What I mean is that, since I Zoom a bunch for work, that is my niche and he has been asked by Rev. Debra to read passages from scripture. We adore this small church that has been our "home" for about 2 1/2 years, but recently, we have gotten to get to know more folks and help in ways we might not have before this virus came along.
2. Our dogs truly love us. Obviously, we knew that already, but this pandemic has helped us find more time to curl up with them (especially with Rudy, as she is aging quickly and has medical issues---we adore finding more time to spend hugging on her and loving on her).
3. We have begun binge-watching "The Blacklist"---why, for all of my friends out there, have you not talked me into checking this Netflix series out before now? We are hooked!
4. We are grateful for the little things SO much more---Zoom happy hours with Dave's family, video chats with girlfriends of mine from college, seeing how people step up to the plate to make what used to be "live" events simply move seamlessly to online events.
5. I'm doing two book studies---one with my niece and grandniece and one (starting next week, and there's still room) on Jeanine Cummins' book, "American Dirt" (RUN, don't walk, to find a copy----it is truly heart-wrenching, action-packed, and drama-filled, you will not be able to put it down).
People say they've encountered hoarders at the supermarkets; people who are "Zoom-bombing" AA meetings by shouting out "Who wants a shot of Jim Beam???"; longer times for packages to arrive; longer than usual wait time to get customer service to help with business issues; and the list goes on. What I say is, "There will always be people who are doing things I may not love, but it is my own fault if I let those people or things block the sunlight of the Spirit".
I am thankful to all my friends, family, co-workers, partners in consulting work for schools and districts, and I am EXTREMELY confident they are all doing the very best they can. But what happens when we're allowed to return to "business as usual"? How long will it take us to forget these poignant moments that seem so sacred during this unprecedented time? I hope it will take us a long, long time. I pray we can keep the memory of what we are doing for one another "green" long after people take off their masks and gloves. Rachel Platten's song, "Fight Song" was there for me during my breast cancer struggles. I hope you can find some peace in it as well (and the wisdom to know the difference).
What about you? I'd love to hear your good-news stories. Please feel free to share them with me!!
Happy Communicating (and wash your hands!),