This Pandemic Thing: It Cuts Both Ways!
Honestly, so much time has passed since I last posted anything, I felt it was important to correct that. The reality is that while many can confirm on many levels what a challenging time (code for “dumpster fire”) 2020 represented. However, as I seem to progress in years, my perspective seems to become much broader and more inclusive on every level. Circumstances have certainly changed in the past 12 months, whether that change is personal, professional, or emotional. I think against that backdrop, one of my most important posts last year focused primarily on the need to constantly evaluate your personal wellbeing; mental, physical, and otherwise. Once that is done, the goal should be to focus on checking on those you have identified as being important to you.
For example, I am a dad, and it is the most important role I think I have. I spent the better part of 2020 trying to stay in a constant state of readiness just watching over my kids, always checking in and making sure they knew I was available to them for whatever. While I felt that was my responsibility, the burden of such emotional weight was extremely heavy. That said, to be clear, parents all over the world have carried that extremely heavy burden over the past 12 months. In my case, I consider myself lucky, because I have a spouse that is not only my friend but my partner, which makes carrying that burden not as intense as it could have been. However, not every situation is structured the same, and circumstances for sure, are vastly different. Around the world mothers and fathers alike, either walked away from jobs or worked remotely to be full-time "at home" teachers, always seeming to second guess their effectiveness or needlessly questioning their proficiency. The stress and reality of working remotely, teaching at home, or just trying to figure out what is next, especially in the silence of spaces defined by a missed mortgage payment or past due rent just simply becomes, unbearable. However, there is always something that anchors you to reality and the hope and expectation that things will get better. I have seen people lose their homes, stand in line for food, or search for answers because that job they held for decades no longer exists. This is a trauma that can define a lifetime, it is a hurt and raw emotion that truly gives new meaning to the phrase, “the struggle is real.”
However, lost in all of this is the fact that there are business owners who, as of now, are referred to as former business owners, because they lost it all in the onslaught of COVID-19. Many of these folks find themselves in the same predicament as those they employed. It is quite easy to draw the conclusion that everyone seeking a hand is someone living in poverty, or someone constantly in need of help. That is not always the case, especially now. Many communities have been allowed to survive and, in many instances, thrive because of the small businesses that exist in them. People from any number of diverse backgrounds have forged connections sometimes more substantial than blood relations with the people they work with or work for. Over my years on the planet, I have learned that, while I may be extremely grateful for the family I was born into, I can never explain how it feels to be an accepted part of the family you choose. The guilt, grief, and trauma of hurting your work family is as real as the pain of hurting your real family, it's sometimes greater. Most employers carry the burden of the wellbeing of all those families attached to their business, just like they were fighting to save their own family; so, when or if it ends in failure the disappointment is just as crushing. While many of the relationships we create in our lifetime can be very transactional, especially those defined as business relationships; how many of us can still point to the connections we made with that flower store owner, or the guy in the food truck, or our favorite server at the neighborhood take-out spot. All of them made an impression on us, knew us by special order or by name, all while co-existing and creating codependency on customers, colleagues, and co-workers, and yes even their bosses.
That is one of the reasons why I felt I would just explore the pain of employers over this past year, as many have had to literally choose between saving one family while sacrificing the other, and under no circumstances can that ever be defined as easy. I believe that by recognizing that this has been a difficult time for all of us we should, therefore, commit ourselves to do more. As we all climb out of this deep hole that has been 2020 and focus on recovery in 2021, I would encourage those of us with resources and a capacity to do so, to support small businesses, focus on helping them to rebuild better than before, focusing on recovery and long-term success. Contribute to charities and community outreach programs that support those in need, job training, mentoring, career counseling, food banks, whatever is the need, help to meet it! By doing this you help to feed the necessary energy that will help to change the environment for the better; because if you did not realize it, this pandemic thing cuts both ways. That said, in the spirit of engagement, let us reforge and support our familial relationships, whatever form they take, be it our communities, our business connections, or the sacred "tried and true" model, that special someone and all that comes with them.