Some PG-13 language in today’s post to keep it real. Yeah, I know no one says “keep it real” anymore, but the following story is true.
While working with our community’s food distribution you occasionally get grumpy people in the line. At our first food distribution I was massively chewed out by someone who didn’t want to wait in line. I can’t repeat the language here or I’d have to change this post’s rating. But I got it. People are amped up and her only outlet was to go off on me, so be it.
Back to the PG-13 story: last week a recipient is wanting food and she’s not in the system. She thinks she is. Finds out she isn’t. She’s annoyed. I can’t blame her. There’s been a couple different processes. There are several food giveaways in the community. And everyone- volunteers, food recipients, you, me- is feeling fear and anxiety to some degree. This gal is agitated wondering aloud why she has to re-register and finally lets out: “what the hell was the other registration for? What the hell why do I need to register again?”
My response? I smiled. And then I said “I know, what the hell” and chuckled.
She smiled. I smiled.
I might’ve caught the other volunteer off-guard but then they too smiled.
The point isn’t to swear more. This is maybe the second time I’ve publicly said “what the hell” in the last year. The other time was in front of my boys and nephews on the lake last summer, but that’s a story for another day.
The point is like this woman you’re going to have what the hell moments (abbreviated here on out as WTH) in the biggest WTH season you’ve ever lived through.
Your students figure out how to make all kinds of TikTok videos but can’t figure out how to upload an ELA assignment in Google classroom? WTH.
Your friend or family member posts/tweets/shares something and your only reaction is WTH.
Your kids quickly adjust to a summer vacation schedule of staying up late, binge watching Avenger movies, leaving the basement and kitchen looking like some massive party happened and no one cleaned up while you’re still going to bed by 10:30 and waking up in the morning muttering WTH.
Your children figure out new ways each day to bug the dog/cat/your spouse/their sibling/you, get the desired reaction of annoyance/growling/complaining/whining/yelling and then respond “what?!” with such genuine shock their action caused the reaction, and you’re like WTH.
I said WTH last week to diffuse tension and relieve stress. It worked for the woman in line and maybe, just maybe, calling the tense/worrisome/agitated/annoyed/stressed moment you’re living through a WTH moment will work for you too.
And if you want to keep it real, share your WTH story in the comments!
This is my first time doing this
I’m part of a team of folks providing food and necessities to people who need them during this pandemic and much of the provision happens in a twice a week food distribution. Our team has provided food necessities to thousands of households in our community and the most common thing I keep hearing is this is my first time doing this.
When you do something like a community wide food distribution, it’s challenging not to judge folks based on outward appearance. There are folks who look like they need assistance more than others. There are folks driving nicer cars than most or with the dealer tags still on the windshield. If it’s your first time helping with a food distribution, you’ll notice and comment and perhaps judge. I was in the same place several years ago too but a heavy dose of the author Ruby Payne and some experience and you can understand a person’s mindset and where folks are coming from (although full disclosure: I did mutter something when I saw the brand new Mercedes in line for the food distribution, so I’ve room to grow here).
The thing with this crisis from my perspective is how it cuts across socio-economic lines. Our recent food distributions have many folks saying this is my first time doing this:
People from all walks of life are experiencing an economic crisis for the first time.
This doesn’t negate the experiences of those who have been in this boat for some time.
This doesn’t mean it’s worse or sadder because more people are experiencing it for the first time or because people from higher socio-economic classes are experiencing it.
It does mean this crisis is different. It means it’s felt by different people and by more people. It means the faces, the clothes and the vehicles in line at the food distribution, on the internet applying for unemployment, or seriously anxious about how things look a month from now look more like my neighbors and yours then previous crises.
For many, it’s their first time asking for help.
And for most of us, it’s our first time living through something like this.
So keep this in mind today.
Remember it’s your Facebook friend’s first time living through something like this when you read her posts and are tempted to type out your disagreement.
Remember it’s teachers’ first time providing remote and virtual education. It’s students’ first times being taught via Zoom and Google Classroom.
Remember it’s your coworkers first time living through something like this this. It’s your family’s first time living through this.
This is your first time doing this.
This is our first time doing this.
If it’s your first time asking for help, it’s okay. You’re okay. You have tremendous strength and courage to ask for help
And if you’re providing help, you’re okay. And be okay with whomever you’re serving understanding your role is to serve and leave the questions and judgments for another day.
It's been said this time we're living through is more of a marathon then a sprint.
But it's actually more like training for a marathon. At least with a marathon you know when it's done.
I ran my only marathon 6 years ago and I still remember my longest training run of 22 miles. It was basically 11 miles out from my home, turn around, and run back. I left at like 4:30 in the morning and scared my wife, but that's a different story.
Mile 21- my last mile- I was done. I wasn’t even running at this point- it was like a fast walk. And right when I am experiencing some excruciating pain after 3 hours of running, this gal comes down a cross street, running much faster than I was, and a little too cheerfully says “good morning!”. She proceeds to dust me. In that moment I wanted to yell out “this is mile 21!” but I couldn’t really talk at that point.
Side note: it’s then I had the idea- free for any of you to take- of making shirts for runners with sayings on the back of the shirt like “distance day”. “Speed day”. “Easy day”. The shirts are perfect to communicate to fellow runners (like this gal) or even to people in cars who drive by and wonder why you’re not running faster and then smugly pat themselves on the back that if they ran, they’d certainly be running faster than you.
When you train for a marathon, not every day is a 22 mile distance day. Most days are like 5 or 6 miles. Some days are less and some days are more. Some days you’re doing some strength training in addition to the run and some days you’re doing nothing and resting.
As you live through social distancing, quarantines and stay at home orders, this isn't a marathon. It's training for a marathon, and here's what that means:
One last thing: just like my 22 mile run was the same day as someone else’s easy breezy run, your hard day may be your spouse's lazy day. Your lazy day might be a coworker's normal day. A Facebook friend or colleague might get to more normal days quicker than you.
And you’ll be tempted (like I was with the faster runner) to yell unkind things at folks having different kinds of day than you, but understand we’re all training for this together.
And we’re all going to train differently.
So rather than yell or judge, encourage and cheer each other on.
A couple weeks ago I literally bought into the fear all of all of this craziness we're experiencing. I kept hearing about these toilet paper shortages. For one morning, I was consumed with this very real scarcity. My son works at a grocery store and provided daily confirmation that the toilet paper shortage was no hoax. I saw the stories and watched the viral videos and then hopped online and ordered one package from Sam's. And I likely patted myself on the back for calmly and rationally solving a problem rather than giving into the hysteria even though it was the hysteria that led me to this purchase!
2 days later Sam's cancelled my order because they were out. More panic!
So I scoured Sam's site and every brand of toilet paper was out except one: Windsoft Jumbo Toilet Paper Rolls. You see while domestic toilet paper use has gone up, commercial toilet paper use has fallen and this was the product I could buy. So I did. 12 jumbo rolls of the kind of toilet paper you'd use at school. Or perhaps a church that doesn't like you very much. Or a restroom at a park. It's the kind of toilet paper that does the job but you don't feel great about it.
Even now I laugh at myself with that decision and how it's evidence I bought into fear. And as this time in our history becomes more of a defining moment, there’s three questions to ask yourself as this crisis become more of a permanent reality:
The first question is an easy one but also provides opportunity. Of course there’s more problems. These new problems reveal your fears and insecurities. They reveal your grief, complaining, worrying and fretting. They reveal skill sets no longer valid or needed in this a new world, whether that’s a temporary new world or a more permanent new world. You've had to rebuild completely new routines, systems, and ways of work while constantly wondering if this indeed is a new normal or a short-lived survival tactic.
The opportunity comes with the next question: who are you going to be when this is done? Who are you going to be coming out of this thing?
Most important is the last question: will you give or take? Does this time reveal you as a giver or a taker?
Times like these reveal who you are. We can buy and post and write and blog about what we value and what’s important to us. But tough times and historical moments strip away words, attention and spotlights. They unmask my pretensions and expose how I answer the core question: do I give or do I take?
Do I see what's happening in my world and take? Do I put more faith into my fear and worry? Do I allow anxiety to guide my decisions and cause me to hide, to panic and to buy cheap commercial grade one ply toilet paper get what I can while I can?!
Or, do I see what’s happening in the world and give?
Do I contribute?
Do I show up?
Do I give of who I am and what I can to continue to make a difference in the world?