By Maxyne Finkelstein
On March 7 we reset our clocks in North America and as I was doing that with my “old school” analogue clocks I was thinking about the impact of COVID 19 and the messages we can take from this experience.
While I have never been one to believe everything happens for a reason or pain makes us stronge, I do know that this unexpected virus that has taken us by surprise at a global level provides an important moment for a collective rethinking. How often are we faced with a universal problem which we all want to solve at the same time?
Both personally and professionally I see this as a time when we can step back and use this as a fermata (a pause in a musical score). If we have been given time to think due to cancellation of events, a slow down on travel, a required or voluntary decision to work at home or stay indoors until the virus passes, let us use it as an unexpected opportunity to rethink whether what we are doing every day is worthy of two of our most precious resources, time and emotional investment.
Few days pass that I think why am not calling or visiting that a person who is alone, volunteering more or creativity in trying to contribute to an important social problem. Well perhaps this is the moment for me to make a list of the things I usually find excuses not to do. Can I set aside some of the time I spend with my digital devices and give it to others in a way which would be helpful?
The past year has shown us the impact of hate speech and actions. So much of what we listen to is negative and hurtful. The political environment has become more about how to diminish others than about how to add value and repair our world. This is not the lesson we want to pass to successive generations. If we are privileged to live in a democracy, we could use our resources to encourage civil dialogue at all levels. Whether it is at home, school, on the playground, in institutions or media why are we prepared to continue listening to noise that is against our better values and what can we do to change it? This is not elevator music; this is the sounds women and men create that can-do significant damage to others. Most of use have been given the gift of speech which can be used for good and bad and we need to think about that when we voice our thoughts and opinions if we want to continue to promote good values and ethical behaviour in our work and personal lives.
As a professional manager at a funding foundation I know that there are issues I have avoided speaking to grantee partners about because we don’t have time, or I am reticent to raise a difficult issue. Maybe this is the time to take the risk and gather the “elephants in the room” and begin to talk about them collectively. Is the possible recession a time to rethink business plans and look at new ways of collaborating? Rather than wait for things to spiral downward can we stop the gravity now?
Looking inward I know I can spend more time learning and improving myself. Taking time each week for both Jewish and general learning always makes me feel better, but I don’t always do it. Going to Shabbat services is good but am I really listening to the messages and taking advantage of the weekly opportunity I am given to learn? I know I can make a greater effort to teach as well as learn and perhaps this is the time to take advantage of understanding both my needs as a student and capacity as a teacher and block out time for both.
Most important are we taking time to stay healthy. I don’t mean washing our hands twice while we sing “Happy Birthday” (as lesson from the SARS epidemic) or hoarding hand sanitizer and wiping down all surfaces including our cell phones which we touch and look at obsessively. I mean taking time for a well-planned diet, exercise and mindfulness and not seeing that at an interruption to our daily routine but an important added value.
Let us creatively use any extra time we have been given and wishes to all for good health and a Purim Sameach!
Maxyne Finkelstein is President, Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation.