After a year that collectively impacted the world like few others in modern times, we stand poised to move forward. Warm weather is returning to those of us who live in northern parts of the globe, vaccinations are bolstering our confidence in the face of the debilitating strain of coronavirus, the normal rhythm and patterns of life are showing signs of returning.
Each of our own personal stories has been changed to varying degrees. But those degrees can range widely. People in some US states that didn’t impose too many restrictions and were fortunate enough to avoid being stricken with COVID-19 may not have experienced much change in their lives. Others were irrevocably changed as people lost loved ones, jobs, businesses. Students lost some of the experiences that so many of us cherish -- proms, school extracurriculars, graduations. As we hopefully move beyond this trying time, it’s important to recognize the differences in people’s experiences and to remember not to view everybody’s experience through your own lens.
As a storyteller at Steven James, the need to see things from the perspective of a client who entrusts me to tell his or her story is not optional. It is imperative. The beauty of this demand is that it forces me to be more empathetic. I think empathy is taken for granted too much -- as if it’s as natural as any human feeling.
But I suspect if you don’t work at it, like most things, it doesn’t develop as it could and should. The pace of our modern life sometimes makes it a challenge to slow down long enough to look at situations through anybody else’s eyes. Not being able to do so ultimately puts one at a disadvantage despite all the posturing about rugged individualism, fierce independence, and the competition we face in life. Is there competition? Without a doubt. But the vast majority of life and work depends on cooperation before we can be truly and honorably competitive. My hope is that one of the legacies of the pandemic is that the forced changes that were thrust upon us will make us all a touch more reflective, a touch more accepting, a touch more empathetic.
With all our technology, instant communications, audio and video marvels, and the enrichment they can bring, I do fear we are in some respects losing touch with the actual pace (not the virtual pace) of life. But life and nature has its ways of reminding us of its rhythm and stride at some point. To not unplug and appreciate what an hour or two is -- or 24 hours -- without cable TV or social media or countless apps on the phone to fill the space, often in the form of empty mental calories, is a risk we take at our own peril. In the past year while hunkering down to get through COIVID-19, I had another disease strike me personally, one that also starts with the letter C. I spent three weeks in the hospital with only virtual visitors and was not certain I would walk out to actually see my friends and family again. I was reminded in a very abrupt and stark manner how long an hour is, and how long a night is when you are alone with only your bouncing thoughts. I am so fortunate that my many friends, my work family at SJMG, my personal family, and the brilliant medical staff at Strong Hospital carried me through, and I was able to return to the job I love.
I look forward to seeing members of our SJ client-family again, listening closely to what you want to say and need to say. And if I rush you in any way, feel free to remind me to slow down the pace a bit. Time is going to pass at its very own speed, regardless of what apps we use or filters we throw on it.