WE'RE GOING THROUGH DARK TIMES, BUT THAT MIGHT BE A LIGHT AHEAD
By BERNARD KAVALER
SPECIAL TO HARTFORD COURANT (reprinted here)
MAY 15, 2020 | 6:00 AM
These weeks of quarantine have offered ample time for reflection and perspective. But will it all change who we are? Maybe it will — for the better.
The overriding emotion of this time, which may continue to influence how we conduct business and daily life, may well be gratitude.
Witnessed from the safety of compliance with stay-at-home orders, the unmistakable day-in, day-out courage of those on the front lines brought to mind a phrase first uttered by social activist Dick Gregory. He once observed, “One of the things I keep learning is that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people.”
So many among us have done extraordinary things for other people, meriting our unrelenting appreciation. From health care workers to grocery clerks, first responders to delivery personnel, and volunteers of every stripe, we should be inspired by everyone who stepped up and stepped out to help.
While individual acts may differ in magnitude, they are drawn from the same cloth — selflessness, empathy, determination, resilience and generosity.
For the personal risks they have taken, the much-needed expertise and assistance they have provided, the fortitude they have demonstrated and the kindness and thoughtfulness they have exemplified, we are exceedingly grateful.
All of us, throughout this dangerous and uncharted journey, have reached out to check the well-being of those we know, near and far, or to commiserate with graduates denied commencement ceremonies, or friends prevented from celebrating milestones as they planned and would have preferred.
We gained heightened respect for challenges facing teachers, caregivers, local retailers and small business owners as they stayed in place, adjusted on the fly or work diligently to re-open safely.
We also quickly realized that many of the people providing services we rarely gave a second thought turned out to be precisely the individuals we relied on to keep our tenuous hold on day-to-day reality in balance. We all assume the trash will be picked up each week, the water will continue to flow from the faucet and the store will usually have the products we prefer. Possibly for the first time, expectation was broadly replaced by appreciation.
Technology was relied on not only to keep business moving, organizations functioning and workers employed, but to move past the isolation that might otherwise have enveloped us. Never have so many dens, living rooms and kitchen tables received such wide and visible notoriety, or been as frequently pressed into service — for work, for school, for just about everything done by anyone in families everywhere.
Inspiring signs of hope also sprang up, from chalk drawings on driveways and paper hearts affixed to doorways, to businesses that retooled instantly to produce what was desperately needed and volunteers who appeared from nowhere in astounding numbers, willing to do almost anything, almost anywhere.
It took a time of intentional separation to demonstrate beyond question how much we yearn to literally rub elbows (or even shake hands) and how virtual connections have universally become the next best thing to being there.
The challenges of an uncertain and unsteady business and nonprofit landscape are not receding soon enough. Even as we tentatively move forward, the shadow of what we’ve been through remains. What’s ahead, however, is brightened now by greater optimism in our determination to overcome any obstacle by tackling it together.
Perhaps images of that better time may in reality be closer than they appear.
It has already been a long and winding road, an unanticipated slog through the start of this decade, but we’re not nearly done yet. There’s more to see, more to say, and more to do — with each other and for each other.
Our next steps may be taken tentatively but could soon gain traction with the actual possibility of a more productive and enduring path increasingly within our sights. This time, the way forward may be energized by real, genuine gratitude.
Bernard Kavaler is founder and Managing Principal of Express Strategies, a public relations business in Connecticut.