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Change is Coming (I Hope)

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

What will our lives look like when we emerge on the other side of this pandemic?

That question keeps resurfacing in my mind, particularly when I hear people say things like we will return to “normal” – whatever that means. I think “normal” is different for different people.

But I digress.

My hope is that we will emerge better than before. My hope is that we will have more compassion for each other.

My hope is that we will lose the superiority complex that causes us to judge people based on job titles or earnings. My hope is that we will have the wisdom to embrace one humanity and recognize our interdependence on each other.

My hope is that we will have discovered reservoirs of power and resilience to address critical global challenges, including economic injustices, disparities in access to quality healthcare, peace and nonviolence, and the climate crisis.

It has been reported that in China (where pollution is believed to cause as many as 1.6 million premature deaths annually) the reduction in pollution caused by the COVID-19 lockdown may have saved 50,000 lives.

Could it be that our concept of commuting and polluting needs to change, at least in part? Could it be that we need to re-evaluate our travel patterns and the effectiveness of things like working remotely, online education, limiting air travel, carpooling, public transportation, smart energy, and alternative fuels?

Could it be that we can create a peaceful environment, free of violence and war?

Could it be that we can implement a plan that provides quality healthcare for everyone?

Could it be that we can stop treating “essential” workers as if they are expendable and provide a living wage to all workers that will eliminate poverty?

Through our response to the threat posed by this pandemic, we have demonstrated that it is possible to rapidly and drastically transform our systems and societies.

It is possible to carry our “new awareness” beyond this current emergency.

We can change our behavior —why not change it for the better, for the common good?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Keep Smiling

Blog by Rev. John T. Judie, OPA

A friend recently sent me a list of one-liners that have been collected from memes to help bring a smile to my face as we navigate our way through this pandemic.

I have been sharing the list to spread joy as a way to help combat COVID-19 anxiety.

HUMOR IS THE BEST MEDICINE – COPING WITH COVID-19

  • Half of us are going to come out of this quarantine as amazing cooks. The other half will come out with a drinking problem.
  • I used to spin that toilet paper like I was on Wheel of Fortune. Now I tum it like I’m cracking a safe.
  • I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.
  • Still haven’t decided where to go for Easter — The Living Room or The Bedroom
  • PSA: every few days, try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.
  • Homeschooling is going well. Two students suspended for fighting and one teacher fired for drinking on the job.
  • I don’t think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks we’d go from Standard Time to the Twilight Zone
  • This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into my house, told my dog… we laughed a lot.
  • So, after this quarantine … will the producers of “My 600 Pound Life” just find me or do I find them?
  • Quarantine Day 5: Went to this restaurant called THE KITCHEN. You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal. I have no clue how this place is still in business.
  • Day 5 of Homeschooling: One of these little monsters called in a bomb threat.
  • I’m so excited — it’s time to take out the garbage. What should I wear?
  • I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to Puerto Backyarda. I’m getting tired of Los Livingroom.
  • Day 6 of Homeschooling: My child just said “I hope I don’t have the same teacher next year” … I’m offended.
  • Better 6 feet apart than 6 feet under.

Hope this made you laugh — or at least smile!

Posted in Associate Blog, News

THE PANDEMIC CAN EMPOWER US TO DEMAND CHANGE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I am a firm believer that every experience provides a lesson – or an affirmation of a lesson learned.

As COVID-19 takes the world by storm and has changed life as we knew it, what have we learned or affirmed?

Many of us have affirmed that our mothers were right when they said:  wash your hands; cover your cough or sneeze; stay home when you’re not feeling well; avoid close contact with people who are sick; clean and disinfect.

We have learned that grocery and convenience store workers, custodians and housekeepers, fast food workers, gas station workers, home care and child care workers, etc. are considered “essential” workforce.

I find it not only disgraceful, but immoral, that these workers don’t make a living wage.

There is something terribly wrong when we expect “valuable” workers to stand on the front line during this pandemic but fail to pay them wages that support the dignity of a decent lifestyle. Sure, some of the large corporations who employ some of these workers have committed to a TEMPORARY hourly increase of a few dollars (still not enough to qualify as a living wage) that will disappear soon – outrageous!

(They can manage to pay their CEOs astounding sums while still recording multi-billion-dollar profits; but they continue to elbow their underpaid workers toward government assistance offices and food banks and clinics for food and health care, rather than pay them a living wage).

Even the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package will not provide the “relief” that is needed for underpaid essential workers. While the boost from a relief check or an additional unemployment insurance benefit is welcome, let’s be honest: It’s temporary and insufficient!

The promised (lest we forget many are struggling to get state unemployment benefits) $600 extra weekly unemployment benefit  is equivalent to a $15 hourly wage minimum — but to collect it, you have to be laid off.

And the stimulus package doesn’t mandate a comparable wage floor for workers who are still on the job – still on the front line (does this even make sense?).

Policymakers have always been slow to address an unjust economic system that increasingly widens the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

The truth is that the federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 and hasn’t been increased since 2009 and policymakers never seem to be interested in what is best for the neediest Americans. News flash: Times of economic hardship have always increased the unequal standing of the most vulnerable Americans.

If we can learn to rapidly and drastically transform the way we live, work, and travel amid this pandemic, we surely can create a system of requiring a fair wage for all American workers – especially our underpaid “essential” workers — so that they have the freedom to live decent, independent, dignified lives.

As we experience shelter in place, lockdown, and quarantine and rediscover the absolute importance of underpaid essential workers, take time to put into perspective their value, related to hedge funders, investment bankers, and billionaire owners of multinational corporations (who have escaped to their bunkers).

Could it be that this pandemic is an occasion to revise the economic reward that each gets from society and to revisit issues like the distribution of wealth, fair taxation, and increased welfare (a social effort to promote the physical and material well-being of people in need)?

Could it be that this pandemic can empower us to demand a much-needed transformation of systems that are in crisis?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

There is Hope in the Midst of a Storm

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

During stormy seasons (like this current pandemic), it can be difficult to maintain hope.

We can be so blinded by the storms in our lives – sickness, job loss, financial crisis, failing a class, losing a loved one, etc. – that we forget the power, love, and mercy of God and we forget the goodness that can be found in humanity.

When life seems to be spiraling out of control, those of us who believe in God should remember that God is in control and is stronger than our problems and that God will give us the strength we need to get through the storm.

For those who may not believe in God or a higher power (and those who do), perhaps comfort and strength can be found in the goodness of humanity – the acts of kindness that we see every day (people shopping for those who are vulnerable; employers who are providing pay to employees who are sheltered in place; restaurant owners who are providing meals for the homeless and economically disadvantaged; neighbors who are checking on neighbors and sharing meals and supplies;  athletes who are donating to food banks and childcare programs; healthcare heroes who  are on the front line; grocery store and retail workers and custodial and cleaning staff who continue to serve, etc.).

A friend of mine, who is a pastor in California, recently shared a message with his parishioners that I believe is worth repeating :

Never forget how far you’ve come.  Everything you have gotten through. All the times you have pushed on even when you felt you couldn’t. All the mornings you got out of bed no matter how hard it was. All the times you wanted to give up but you got through another day. Never forget how much strength you have learned and developed.

I would like to add: Never forget that we lift each other up – we make the world a better place – when we show our goodness.

My prayer is that rather than sinking deeper into fear or pain or chaos, we can all find enough hope to get us through the storm. I think we can find that hope by reaffirming our trust in God and in humanity.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Stay Socially Connected

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I think we got it wrong.

Rather than encouraging social distancing during this pandemic, maybe we should be encouraging keeping physical distance but keeping socially connected?

I can’t claim this idea as my own. It is the brainchild of veterans who work with Jay Glazer, a sportswriter and founder of Merging Vets & Athletes, which brings together ex-combat veterans and former athletes to battle “emotional distancing”.

I think they’re on to something because as we navigate through these times of isolation, we need to empower each other to hold onto hope. We can do that by reaching out to others by phone, email, text, social media and using apps like Skype, FaceTime, and House Party, to offer support to each other – by staying socially connected.

Because we are social beings, deprivation of social connection can create stress and illness, according to psychological research. And loneliness can make people feel more vulnerable and anxious.

Now is a good time to reach out to friends and family and connect with them to let them know how much you care about them.

Who will you connect with today to help her/him feel less alone and more loved?

Posted in Associate Blog, News