Making Lemonade: Lessons from the Pandemic
As 2020 (gratefully) comes to a close, it’s easy to look back on this hellish year and see only the fire (quite literally in many western states) and brimstone of a year that has been gripped by climate catastrophes, political and civil unrest, and a host of problems, ranging from loss of jobs to loss of loved ones, as a result of a global pandemic.
But as we put 2020 in the rearview mirror, we want to shine a light on some positives. As tough as things have been, we can find some silver linings in this difficult year, too. Things we gained, lessons we learned, skills we honed. So, in this month that is synonymous with gratitude, we are going to focus on the good. The good we've received, the good we’ve witnessed, and the good we pledge to give back and pay forward as we move into 2021.
Working from home.
For many of us, it hasn’t been ideal. Lack of personal connection, Zoom fatigue, constant interruptions by young children--also attending school from home. But for others, going to work in their pajamas, avoiding long commutes, getting to snuggle their pets at will, and not having to deal with that annoying co-worker who always takes their yogurt from the office fridge has been kind of awesome.
And as one of our employees remarked, “I’ve felt really privileged to have a home during this time. I think of our friends at Upward Bound House that are working to end family homelessness. And I’m also grateful to be employed during this time when so many others have lost their jobs. It makes me have even more respect and admiration for organizations like Chrysalis, that help people find jobs.”
Many would agree that the pandemic has been especially hard for parents with young children at home. Aside from being isolated from the help of outside care and the refuge of outlets like playgrounds, rec centers, and myriad other activities that shut down, parents have had to don multiple hats during the pandemic; in some cases that of: friend, coach, counselor, therapist, and teacher.
While actual teachers have taken on the extraordinary task of shifting their teaching online, parents are facilitating their children’s online learning. Because if you think a kindergartener is going to willingly sit through 4 hours of Zoom learning, well, you’ve clearly never tried to make them. And while having our kids at home 24/7 has driven us to distraction, it has also given us tremendous respect for educators and for all the organizations that enrich and support children’s learning and development.
Like our friends at United Friends of the Children, whose mentoring improves educational outcomes for foster youth; Families in Schools, who help parents get involved in their children’s education; and Inner-City Arts, who bring arts and creativity into the educational experience.
Feeding our families.
It’s true, eating 3 meals a day, every day, at your house can make you start to hate your kitchen (but appreciate your dishwasher!) Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, when figuring out how to procure all your groceries online was pretty much a full-time job comprised of app-hopping and checking in with stores to see when milk and Lysol (never mind toilet paper) would be in stock. But despite all the aggravation, at the end of the day we ate.
Maybe we had to settle for a non-organic cut of meat, or do without the brand of bread we normally like, but we had enough. (Some of us even learned how to bake our own bread—in the oven, like pioneers!) And as the headlines surged about the jobless rate spiking, we were starkly reminded of those who weren’t so lucky.
Fortunately, our friends at Food Forward, which saw the number of those in need more than triple, also saw surges in their produce donations. Their wholesale produce program is now distributing over 1 million pounds of produce per week. And our friends at Food on Foot redoubled their efforts to provide homeless and low-income neighbors in LA with nutritious meals, clothing, and assistance with life skills that could help get them back on their feet again.
Meanwhile in NYC, Artists Striving to End Poverty responded to skyrocketing food insecurity by starting a food distribution program in partnership with Abraham House in the South Bronx. They’ve served over 2,000 families.
For many of us, March 2020 will forever be the month that saw schools closing without warning, businesses shuttering their doors and laying off employees, local and federal governments in chaos and without a clear plan or message, and, of course, to top it off, a toilet paper shortage. To say that any one of these situations would cause great stress and anxiety would be an understatement, but all at once? For many, it was a breaking point.
One of our employees remarked, “I’ve never experienced anxiety and depression on the scale that I experienced at the start of the pandemic. It was debilitating and absolutely terrifying for both me and my husband. Fortunately, I was able to get the help I needed and rebounded quickly, but I was left with a crystal-clear understanding of what a mental health crisis looks and feels like, and incredible empathy for those who suffer chronically from mental illness. And I am in awe of organizations, like our friends at Pacific Clinics and Airport Marina Counseling Service, who work tirelessly to provide mental health services for everyone who needs support.”
We look forward to putting 2020 behind us, but we are also excited about paying forward our gratitude in 2021. And we’d like to start by acknowledging all the heroic work nonprofit organizations have done this year. We are in awe of you, and we are honored to serve you.