Hi Eckerd Nation!
If you are anything like me, you have been watching way too much news coverage about the spread of COVID-19, eating way too much “comfort food”, and kicking yourself for not investing all of your spare dollars in Clorox Wipes!
The other thing I have done these past couple of weeks in isolation is a lot of thinking, reading and praying. While I strive to make time daily for thinking, reading and praying…I find that when things in my external world are in turmoil, making time to strengthen my inner world is the most important and empowering thing I can do not only for myself, but for those I affect around me with whatever my attitude is.
One of the most powerful thoughts I have had during these times of reflecting is something I wanted to share with you today.
I realize all of our personal lives, locations, families, and life stages are different. But my guess is that most of you and your families have situations or dynamics or feelings similar to those in my house the past couple of weeks.
Here is a snapshot: the news stories are flashing across the television, I am trying to keep up with that while moving from one conference call to another related to our Eckerd operations and staff with my AirPods on, running in and out of rooms to avoid the noise of loud conversations going on as our family members try to respect our social distancing while communicating; trying to convince our 18 and 20 year old kids they really need to take the warning of social distancing seriously despite their age, dealing with their frustration of too much noise in the house between the loud conversations, my conference calls, and the dogs barking while they seek a quiet place to take an online exam or host a virtual study group to finish their college classes online; participating in family voting sessions and discussions about what we really need to get at the grocery store versus what we just want so that we can minimize our time at the store and contribute to keeping our community healthy; fielding calls from friends or fellow church members with prayer requests for those in our social circles who have been more directly impacted by the virus, whether through infection, death, or job loss in this time; and trying to figure out the best way to look in on our elderly relatives in the safest manner possible.
Then, of course, there are the more trivial frustrations and inconveniences that pile on to the more serious ones…like not being able to go to the gym to relieve stress and stay active, the inability to spontaneously hug your spouse and kids, missing your co-workers, the impossibility of just spontaneously meeting someone for coffee or a beer to catch up, not being able to go on a date with your spouse at your favorite restaurant, the annoyance of not being able to get your haircut or nails done, with the real color of your hair threatening to make an appearance! No pickup basketball games or sporting events to keep us distracted. The cancellation of important charitable events, Spring Break cruises and vacations, and college Study Abroad experiences long planned and saved for. No more shopping trips to the mall, neighborhood cookouts, large family gatherings, high school and college graduations, end-of-year school banquets, award assemblies, or regularly scheduled doctor appointments.
Then yesterday, in the midst of all these issues swirling in my house and my head, I had a very powerful epiphany that I will never forget. What came to my mind reminded me more clearly than ever why what we do each day at Eckerd Connects is SO important for so many people.
The thought that struck me was that while our world is being disrupted and distressed by a destructive viral pandemic known as COVID-19 that is wreaking pain, hopelessness, despair and death across the globe, there is another pandemic also wreaking pain, hopelessness, despair and even death across the globe.
It is a social pandemic called poverty, and it ravages the lives of children, young people, adults, and the elderly each day. A large majority of those we serve at Eckerd Connects are among those whose lives are being destroyed by the pain of poverty.
As I reflected on all of the things I enjoy each day that I have temporarily lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it dawned on me that people in poverty live in a pervasive and chronic state of loss, not one that is temporarily annoying and inconvenient.
Many children in our child welfare systems come from families where spontaneous hugs and positive affection, family gatherings, vacations, and cruises are not simply postponed – they never existed, and there is little to no hope that they ever will. In fact, many of these children live in homes not only without affection, but homes in which social distancing is more about avoiding domestic violence or physical abuse.
For the vast majority of kids and families we serve in often impoverished and high crime neighborhoods they are not missing the spontaneous shopping trips to the mall, or their favorite restaurants, hair, and nail salons. They have only ever experienced these places as a fantasy.
They are not annoyed at missing their routine health or dental checks because they don’t have insurance to pay for those luxuries.
Most of our clients will not be irritated at missing their daily trips to their health club or gym, because they have never had a gym membership.
They won’t miss meeting up with their friends at their local favorite trendy coffee shop because they have never been to one of those places.
Our clients are probably not talking right now about having to shut down the business they own because they have never even thought of owning their own business, and likely could never qualify for a bank loan to do so.
And far too many of them are not dealing with the loss of the job they love… it’s hard to lose what you have never had and wonder if you ever could.
None of them are depressed because their Summer College Study Abroad trips have been cancelled, and few of them are experiencing the frustrations of having to finish their Spring college courses online. They could only ever dream of going to college.
None of our clients are too distressed about their stock investments with the decline in the stock market because they have no finances to invest.
They are not having family discussions about what is truly needed versus what is simply wanted from the grocery store. For them, everything is needed; there are no luxury food items in their fridge or pantry.
While we all continue to work together to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, let us consider how privileged we truly are. We are battling a physical virus, that while deadly to be sure, we believe is temporary. Let us be reminded that the majority of children, youth, and families we serve each and every day live in the distress, despair, fear, pain and hopelessness of a social pandemic called poverty.
Each day, every one of our programs in one way or another is fighting to protect those whose lives are being ravaged by poverty, fighting to prevent the spread of poverty, and fighting to help each child, youth and adult we serve to find their path out of poverty. Together, even in the midst of unprecedented trouble, we will help them build a safe, strong, and successful life that is full of hope and resilience.
Connecting People to Their Potential,
Eckerd Connects’ President and CEO