The first weeks of physical distancing were filled with lists and, if you were healthy, an appreciation of a rare gift of time. It’s the only time many of us can recall when we had at our fingertips, unspoken for time. Time perhaps to start on some long overdue projects, or to work on some beloved hobbies. People were racing to beat each other to Facebook and Twitter and the ‘Gram’ (the Gram???!!!) with pictures of completed crossword puzzles and loaves of freshly made bread. We were delighting in the unexpected blessings that had come our way; connections with old friends, Zoom calls to hold book clubs and classes, Netflix shows to watch at our leisure, and time for daily walks.
This week the shine is wearing off. The common sentiment is that people have geared down to a slower pace; undone projects are not alluring, Zoom is losing some of her appeal, and motivation is as scarce as toilet paper and cleaning supplies.
On Wednesday, when the Premier of Alberta gave his address, there wasn’t really any shocking new news. But it was stunning to hear it said aloud: We will be remaining in our state of physical distancing for at least eight more weeks. It’s no wonder people have slowed down to the point of discouragement. Eight weeks is long enough that we can safely waste time and still get to those pesky projects.
His words stopped me in my tracks. I’ve spent the last four weeks counting my blessings along with photos in those old albums. I’ve behaved. I’ve stayed home. I’ve followed the rules. And now, eight more weeks. It’s enough to make a grown girl cry. Plenty of people have mentioned their tears that have flowed this week.
I try to be a witness to my own life, to discover what I am meant to learn by living it. This week, amid the discouragement I learned something. Last Friday, a week ago, I received an email telling about a situation in Kenya. About ten years ago, I happened to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, to be lucky enough to start a registered Canadian Charity. Our mandate was to raise money to build schools in a small rural area of the country, Ewaso Ngiro. My original intent was not only to build the schools, but to teach the students at my school about the power they have to change the world. All of us involved in the project learned this lesson in spades.
While many of those students are now pursuing adult lives, the Charity, RDL Building Hope Society, continues to operate and we continue to be very connected with our partners in Ewaso Ngiro, and with the school and the community there. Additionally, we have done much more than build schools. We have developed wonderful relationships with the people in this community, we have helped the teachers modernize their methods, we have supplied books and food and encouragement. We have given generously, and have received far more in return.
The email that arrived told me of the affect Covid 19 was having on this wonderful community. While the virus itself has not reached Ewaso Ngiro, all schools and marketplaces are closed. Because students were regularly receiving two meals each day at school, having closed schools means they are not being fed. With markets closed there is no place to sell livestock to get money for food. Our friends in our school community were beginning to go hungry. To tighten up the story, suffice it to say, a request for donations was sent, responded to and by Monday, Joy, our treasurer, and I, donned our masks, entered the bank and wired enough money to help with the first few weeks of food. This community too will have many weeks of physical distancing and we are continuing to work on ways to help them.
Our partner in Kenya, David, used the money to order a shipment of food and hand washing supplies, and organized the community to come to receive it. He sent us some incredible photos of the operation he set up. And in with one of his emails of thanks to Karen, one of our organization’s Directors, he ended with this,
When I have heard be safe, I have assumed it was in my power to do so. I had not realized it is in my power to be blessed. I have always thought of blessings as things that were bestowed on me or given to me; things over which I did not have much control. But the way David used it in his short message, well, let’s just say that his words too, stopped me in my tracks.
To be blessed may not have nearly as much to do with things other people do for us as they do with how we choose to recognize blessings in our lives and how we choose to be blessed by them. It is in this spirit that I have spent the last few days of this week; being blessed.
On Tuesday I was repeatedly blessed. My doorbell, which has not been overused these weeks, rang in the morning when I was on the phone figuring out more logistics for our project in Kenya. Jim answered and was delighted with an appropriately distanced visit from my friend Gina who was checking in. A few hours later, I received a phone call asking me to come to the door. It was an appropriately distanced Karen, dropping off some beautiful daffodils. And then when all was quiet in the late evening, the doorbell chimed again. This time it was an appropriately distanced Steve, Joy’s husband, who was dropping off a cotton mask Joy had made for me. Be blessed, David had said. And so, we were.
I am choosing to be blessed this Easter weekend. Some of my blessings will come with a side serving of tears. I will still choose to be blessed. We cannot have Easter dinner with our kids so we have designed a pandemic appropriate meal. Each of the kids and our nephew and us, have chosen a part of the meal to make. We will divide the dishes we make into portions for each family. I will set out boxes in our garage and everyone will deliver their contribution at an appointed time. When they are filled, each family will individually pick theirs up and take it home so that we can still share our Easter meal.
I will be the lady with the tears at the window watching as our family comes and goes; the lady being blessed.
Happy Easter to you and your family. Be blessed.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How am I being blessed?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to identify blessings.