This past Friday I popped in a small local market/eatery to grab a few things. A box of disposable gloves were prominently positioned by the open front door, ready for the taking. The employees, as well as the other customers like myself, all donned face masks of varying styles and patterns. Baked goods that normally would be displayed on carts by the register, were all individually wrapped in plastic, away from high traffic areas. Masking tape Xs on the floor served as gentle reminders to keep a respectable distance from others. Sheets of plexiglass acted as barriers between customers and employees. All that to say, it was pretty much business as usual.
Funny how just two months ago the majority of us would have found this scene strange, if not eerily reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode. Yet now, we’ve found the above to be commonplace and even expected.
But there was something else about my visit to the market that I failed to mention; that made “business as usual” even more challenging than the gloves, masks, Xs and plexiglass. You see, before I arrived, that market and most of the businesses on the street where our shop resides, lost power. So there we were, employees and customers, squinting at each other above our masks in the dim light afforded by the shop’s front door and window. Yet the entire staff carried on, a few in the back by the light of a flashlight while other employees worked the checkout area, accepting credit cards the old fashioned way, making iced coffees in lieu of lattes, and maintaining friendly words and smiles (assumption of course; you know, the whole mask thing, but at least their eyes appeared to be smiling).
“You guys are certainly resilient,” I commented to one of the employees.
She responded to the affect of “Well, we kind of have to be.”
Of course they did have other choices - being grumpy, complaining about the added difficulty this lack of electricity was creating, or even calling it quits and shutting up for the day.
But they didn’t. They took their current pivot and adjusted just a little bit further.
Instead of quitting, they chose resilience.
It’s something we’re witnessing a lot of these days.
Resilience: the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change (as Merriam Webster defines it).
I’m seeing it in my boys as they’ve shifted from school to distance learning - it’s been an adjustment for all of us, complete with tears and frustrations (from all of us), and a whole lotta Zoom sessions.
I’m seeing it in other business owners:
“I’ve never busted my butt so hard for something I’m not even sure will work” one told me as he switched up his business model to provide new products to his customers.
Another said, “Things are strange right now, but I'm not going to give up!,” as she works to refine a business she began only last summer.
I’m seeing it in our community: kids and parents chalking their driveways and sidewalks with encouraging messages, volunteers making & donating scores of masks, nonprofits providing bags of food and supplies to those in need, customers choosing to shop small and shop local to support small businesses such as our’s.
Resilience is even popping up via social media, the news, and commercials with so many inspiring stories, reminding us that truly, #weareallinthistogether.
Here’s the thing about resilience though, it’s a choice, not a feeling…
In the middle of that last sentence, I was interrupted - bedtime for my boys. Two showed up for our usual bedtime routine while the other remained holed up in our basement working on a school project - completing the final steps of his chain reaction that involved a slew of dominos, fishing line, a marble, a large cardboard tube, cue sticks, and pool balls. Suffice it to say that it was quite the chain reaction to get the 8 ball in the corner pocket. When I later checked in on him, I could tell things weren’t going well. Rows of meticulous spaced dominos kept falling before their appointed time, the marble was missing its mark, and pool balls weren’t moving as planned. Each failed attempt meant it all had to be set up once more; again, and again.
Pivot once, pivot again, pivot yet again.
Anyone tired of pivoting yet? Anyone want things to get just a wee bit easier?
One thing that’s held me back from writing sooner is that I questioned what I had to offer in the form of encouragement. So many unknowns & uncertainties & so much adjusting left me feeling weary, mentally and physically. How does one even begin to offer encouragement in a pandemic that is causing so much hardship and heartache?
But that trip to the market in the dark and last night with my son and his dominos, reminded me that resilience is born out of hard places.
To me, resilience means we keep moving in the midst of the challenges - we do our best to work with what we’ve got & we don’t quit. We set up those dominos for the 5th or 15th or 29th time and give it another go. We get out of bed and out of our PJs for the 30th, or 66th or 83rd day of lockdown and we give it another go. Because, as I’ve seen quoted recently,
Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. (Robert H. Schuller)
So today, I’ll be there to help my son set up his dominos. And we’ll keep setting them up till that 8 ball indeed lands in that corner pocket. And today, I’m rooting for you to get up and get at ‘em for another day too.
Because I believe you’re resilient, we’re resilient, and we’re going to make it through this.
Keep on keeping on, friend!