It’s Time to Make Lemonade
With the arrival of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we were all faced with a crisis that has reshaped the way we live our daily lives. Restaurants have been forced to cease dine-in services and serve meals for “take out” or “delivery” only. Well-stocked shelves at grocery stores have been replaced with rows and rows of empty shelves because of “panic buying.” Who would have ever thought that toilet paper would be a prized possession? Schools have either closed entirely or are now providing educational services on-line only. Many states and local governments have issued “shelter in place” orders. Others have encouraged citizens to only leave their homes when necessary. Most churches have replaced congregational worship with on-line worship services and I know of one church which built a stage outside to provide worship services for people who call to get the radio frequency so they can attend worship services much like we used to go to drive-in movies. Sports addicts are being forced to watch reruns of previous games since all sports events have been cancelled. The contents of emails and posting on various social media are now filled with tales of frustration and boredom.
As I was contemplating various topics for this month’s column, it occurred to me that since all of us are faced with the same dilemma — how are we going to deal with this crisis – I decided I would share with you my perspective on dealing with this crisis. I decided the things I will do are:
Realize that dealing with crisis is not something new: In fact, dealing with crisis is a rather common occurrence for all of us. We have all dealt with numerous crises. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, during my life time, some of the crises that have occurred are the bombing of Pearl Harbor (12/07/41)which resulted in the United States’ participation in World War II which had begun in 1939, the “Recession of 1949,” Korean War (June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953), Vietnam War (11/1/1955-4/30/75), Cuban Missile Crisis (10/16/62-10/28/62), assassination of John F. Kennedy (11/22/63), assassination of Malcolm X (2/21/65), assassination of Martin L. King (4/4/68), assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (6/6/68), Energy Crisis of the 1970s, AIDS epidemic (1981), Black Monday (1987), Columbine High School Massacre (4/30/99) and numerous other school shootings that followed, “Y2K”, “9-11” (2001), Enron Scandal and Crisis (2001) and a host of others which I cannot recall at the moment.
Control what I can Control – I cannot control the virus, but I can control my reaction to it. I can decide to take all the necessary precautions recommended by the World Health Organization, such as practicing social distancing, washing my hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or if soap and water are not readily available using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily.
I can also remember that crises come and go and I do not have to sit around and let this crisis control my every thought. I can choose not to be overcome by boredom, fear and frustration.
Make Lemonade: There is an old adage that says, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” That is what I decided to do.
During the first few months of 2020, MBA was experiencing less business of almost any year in the nearly 14 years since we started the company. However, it looked as if everything was going to change beginning in the middle of March. On the calendar we had training events in Denton (March 17th-18th), Midland, (March 23rd-24th), Angleton (25th-26th) Corpus Christi (30th -31st) and Tyler (June 17th-18th). I was scheduled to speak at a National Leadership Institute in Annapolis, Maryland the first week in June. A group in Oregon had contacted us about providing them some technical assistance. Things were looking bright, then the Coronavirus arrived. All the March trainings as well as the National Leadership Institute in Annapolis had to be cancelled or rescheduled.
It became glaringly obvious that for the next few months, MBA’s “outgo” would be exceeding its “income.” While nothing will be going into MBA’s coffers, the utility bills (gas, water, electrical, telephone, etc.), payroll, and office expenses will continue to result in withdrawals. All of a sudden, MBA was transformed from a job I love to an expensive hobby I love.
Rather than becoming frustrated and overcome with worry, I am choosing to look at it from a different perspective. First of all, we have dealt with crises before and we managed to survive. Why should this time be any different?
As I began to look at the situation differently, I realized that most of the events we had on the calendar are not being cancelled but rescheduled. We may have to work harder to fit them into our schedule, but most of the projects are still there. Finances may be tight for a while, but we will survive. I have decided I am not going to let this get the best of me. I am going to make lemonade.
I am using the extra time I have available as a result of the coronavirus to do a variety of things: Among them are cleaning and reorganizing my office (which should have been done a long time ago), developing some new workshops, reading some books I have been wanting to read, but have not gotten around to reading and which I hope will also contribute to the development of the new workshops, writing more, and doing some marketing to secure projects for when the crisis is over. Even though my calendar does not look as crowded as it was at the beginning of the month, I feel more productive.
Another impact of the virus is that the Bible Study group I teach at our church on Sunday mornings has been suspended. Most of the people in the group are older than I am. Most are in their 80s & 90s. I am now reaching out to them each day, checking on them by email to find out if they need assistance with something, to encourage them and even share a little humor from time to time. All of that is less time consuming than the six to eight hours a week I spent preparing to teach the Bible Study before the virus caused us to suspend our meetings.
I have friends across the county who are either retired or are near retirement, some of whom are wrestling with some serious illnesses. I decided to call each of them and catch up with what is happening and to try to provide them some encouragement. We shared memories, laughed at some of the things that have happened over the years and in trying to be a blessing to them, they became a blessing to me. What a great time I have had with them. Not sure I would have had that experience if my schedule had not been interrupted by the coronavirus.
As I penned the paragraphs above, a memory bubbled up to the surface of my mind. In 1998, I was driving back from Austin late at night after having been there to testify before the legislature. It was late. I was tired and things had not gone as well as I would have liked. I was afraid that what the legislature was about to do would have a negative impact on the field of criminal justice and especially on probation. As I drove along with my negative thoughts, I began to focus on other areas of my life and the negativity began to permeate my feelings about every aspect of my life. I got to thinking about having kids so late in life and how that was going to affect my retirement. I was thinking, “I’ll be 65 when my oldest child finishes high school and 67 when my youngest finishes, and then I will still be facing college expenses. My children will be going to college on Social Security Scholarships.”
As I was driving and feeling sorry for myself, I began to think about the good things about those situations. As an older parent, I have had more time to devote to my children than I would have had when I was first starting my career. Hopefully, I became a wiser parent for having waited to have children. Financially, I was able to do so much more for my children than I would have been able to do if our children had been born when my wife and I were younger. When I got home, I began to write the following poem:
by Mel Brown
Lord, remind me when I whine
of all the things that are mine.
Make me grateful for what I’ve got
and for all the things that I am not.
My knees – they creak and they crack
and I always have a pain in my back;
but when I hurt with each step that I take,
I can know I’m alive, because I still ache.
My eyesight’s not what it used to be
and that’s not all that’s failing me.
My hearing gets worse as each year passes,
but I still have ears to hold up my glasses.
The teeth I have now are all fake;
But, as a result, they don’t ache.
So Lord remind me when I whine
of all the things that are mine
and make me grateful for what I’ve got,
and for all the things that I am not.
And please help me to always recall
halitosis is better than no breath at all.
The question I would like for my readers to answer is, “How are you making lemonade?”