My Mom keeps saying she’s never experienced anything like what’s going on in the world today.

“But you lived through World War II,” I say.

“That was different. I just remember that we kids went around the neighborhood and collected scrap metal. There were shortages of some things…but this!”

There’s no way of knowing how we’ll be describing pandemic times decades from now. But I’ve heard enough stories of my parents’ lives during the War to know that it wasn’t all just wandering about in search of discarded frying pans.

It had to be hard. Both of my grandfathers worked long hours supporting the war effort, and were absent much of the time. Kids pretty much played on their own, but they had to stay quiet even during the day so shift workers could sleep. My Dad started school on a staggered schedule, so he graduated in January while some of his friends finished in June. My Mom’s father worked 120 miles away, only returning on weekends. Families didn’t take vacations for years because gas was rationed.

Unprecedented times, indeed.

Lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about human beings’ ability to adapt. On an individual basis, some people are more capable than others. I’m sure that has a lot to do with resilience, life experience, and circumstance. But as a community, I think there’s a lot we can be proud of in the way we’ve tried to navigate this moment. (Sure, there’s a lot to criticize, too, but I’m going to take some space to give pats on the back – socially distanced, of course).

In the past few months nearly everyone I know has had to pivot how they live, learn, and work. My clients, friends, and colleagues (you!) are keeping a sense of humor as we learn to be productive – and stay sane – at a distance. I’ve seen your kids, pets, spouses, and bookshelves on my computer screen, and it only makes me like you more. And you’ve been patient while accordion music occasionally emanates from my living room.

I’ve been amazed at what we can do when challenged. My daughter has been a summer camp intern creating theatre productions entirely on Zoom. Kids are having fun, making memories, and learning that adapting can be energizing. In many ways it’s not ideal. On the other hand, our next generation of innovators may be the ones who learned the most important lesson: Hard isn’t a reason to not try.

Getting it together

I’m frustrated when it seems people are acting selfishly, but I also understand they’re probably filled with fear and uncertainty. There’s a lot of that going around these days. Not everyone is open to change, but we’ve seen how communication can play a powerful role in helping people understand what needs to be done. If you have your doubts, look around and see how many people are trying their best to “mask up.” In just a few months we’ve made a cultural shift because of our collective desire to keep each other safe. Sure there are dissenters, but more and more they’re beginning to look like the fools.

Like everyone, I want this to be over. But I also have a wish for all of us: That our collective experience will change us for the better. That we will embrace our adaptability and use it to seek positive change – because we know we can. That we will believe in our power as a community to do things that are hard.

There’s still much more to do, and I, like you, am a mere mortal. But if there’s anything I can do to help you, please reach out.

Copyright Liz Behlke 2020