I am SO blessed!
Yes, I know there is a Pandemic raging worldwide at the moment. It is early May 2020, and the country remains very divided between those who believe we need to be cautious in returning to work and those who feel the need to return to “normal” is overdue. If you want someone to share what you view is the right decision here, no problem, just get on Facebook, Twitter, or your favorite news media hub, scroll down a bit, and voila, you have a kindred spirit who obviously “gets it” in spite of all the “ignorant masses” or “sheep” who are fools for believing what those “other idiots” think.
In all seriousness, I don’t really believe any of that or that there is one “right answer” anymore than I believe that either (1) we should drink ourselves with bleach to kill the Coronavirus or that (2) President Trump really seriously said we should do that. In fact, I don’t believe that any worldly view that speaks in absolute terms as either side of that particular or other “manufactured” controversies would lead us to believe. And if you get bored with that controversy, don’t worry, many others will be shooting off shortly like fireworks on the 4th of July, one after another catching our very short-lived attention until the next “firework” controversy shoots off and captures our interest. And the more absurd the controversy the more attention we give it.
So… in this crazy time, how can I say I am SO blessed? Well, let me share the obvious reasons first…
First, if you haven’t been following me on Facebook, you may not know that my younger daughter, Gigi, just received notice she was admitted into UC Santa Barbara as a Linguistics Major.
What makes news of her admission particularly special is that Gigi was “wait-listed” in her original UCSB freshmen application last year after fter attending their summer program for high school seniors and setting her heart originally on going there upon graduation. Undeterred and while she was still in high school, Gigi began taking remote classes at Santa Barbara City College such that she finished 14 units before the Fall semester began. Since that time, she has completed all the requisite 60+ units (including AP credits) and with a 3.94 GPA qualified for the Transmission Admission Guarantee (TAG) program… all in a single Academic Year!
That would have been a great achievement in itself alone, but a day after receiving word from UCSB, Gigi got an acceptance letter from UCLA as well. What is so impressive about that is UCLA is one of the best and most selective colleges in the nation, and because they don’t accept TAG transfers, Gigi qualified for admission to this prestigious school solely on her academic record alone.
So many doors have now opened for Gigi academically where just a year prior, they seemingly had closed. While the journey has been a very difficult one, God is VERY good and Gigi is VERY faithful… resulting in a HUGE prayer answered. Praise God!
Gigi just announced yesterday that she has made her choice, and will be planning to join UCLA as a Linguistics & Psychology major as part of the class of 2022! Here’s her announcement on Facebook, a powerful and motivating message to those graduating from high school this year I think you will agree!
But I am SO blessed for more reasons than that. Let me continue…
Just as the Covid pandemic was about to unfold, my other daughter, Elowyn was able to host her Grand Opening of her NEW Art Studio with her business partner and artist friend, Annie, she met starting the local Art Coalition based in downtown Fresno. They named their studio, Studio Van Ness, as as it is located in the Mural District at the corner of Van Ness and San Joaquin avenues, kitty-corner from Arte Americas in an up-and-coming area of the renovated Downtown Fresno area! To be only 21 and own her own art studio/business is simply amazing! The grand opening was a big success, with many friends and advocates of her art came to celebrate on Art Hop night in early March. In case you couldn’t attend, Elowyn made this ‘virtual tour’ of her studio and shared it recently. Her mom and I are so proud yet in some ways we are not surprised… if you have been following me on Facebook, you know I have been promoting ‘Art by Elowyn’, my daughter’s branded website for several years now that has become increasingly well known especially in the downtown Fresno area.
So.. when the City of Fresno order went out to “Shelter in Place” just a couple weeks after their Grand Opening, it would have been easy for Elowyn to become discouraged that this would be the worst timing to start a new business. Yet, Elowyn kept on promoting her art anyway on her Etsy, Instagram and her www.ArtByElowyn.com Website. While it is hard for Elowyn to not be able to be at her studio temporarily, her art continues to be seen and many still order her many offerings such that it has perhaps even made her all the more visible that one can be a successful commercial artist “on line” in this day and age. We are so blessed to know that many businesses and the art community of Fresno in general have been so supportive of our daughter to make this all possible.
Click here if you want to learn more about Elowyn’s art journey story.
… And yet I am SO blessed during this Covid crisis for yet other reasons…
So far, COVID has caused much disruption in all our lives. Working for Community Medical Centers, a reputable hospital/outpatient care services network here in the Central Valley, however, has been a HUGE blessing in this time. First, our leadership team knew this disruption was coming so prepared all of the Information Systems department I’m part of to be ready to implement a “Work From Home” strategy for its staff. Not only did this impact our 190+ staff, this would be something we would enable and offer to over 700+ of other department employees to do as well. While the vast majority of our 9000+ employees are clinical staff (nurses, therapists, specialists, etc.) who have to have contact with patients, many of our support staff do not need to be in the care areas necessarily to be able to be productive. In fact, many of our staff are located in various business offices throughout Fresno often miles away from any of the hospitals we directly support which made those roles ideal to be moved to our homes in support of the “Shelter in Place” order that Governor Newsome and the mayors of Fresno and Clovis enacted in mid-March. I had the privilege to be part of the team that helped coordinate this effort of getting roughly 350+ people to transition their work from one needing to down form their office-based PC to one based in their respective homes. What a rewarding experience that has been to know they all (like me) can now be at home working safely with their families and still be productive. I have personally been home now for 8 weeks, and while I have found at times being cooped up in one of our spare bedrooms on my computer all day trying and exhausting, I do have to admit I’ve been extraordinarily more focused and thus effective at getting my work done then when I’m in the office where many more distractions occur throughout the day. In fact, I can’t envision going back to 100% office based work ever again given how effective this has been for our IS department in particular, but we shall see.
… and working from home has brought my family even more blessings that I could have ever forecasted.
Many of my friends may know this already as I told the story here about my Mom’s journey recovering from her Stroke nearly 3 years ago. It was in one of our amazing hospitals I support in my role in IS that she was first treated and then rehabilitated from that Stroke through several weeks of focused physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Today, my mom (nearly 90 years old) lives independently at home and still drives (despite the recommendation of me and my brothers otherwise) and does so much of what needs to be done on her own.
This is a link to an earlier story I told about her recovery, titled, “Thankful for Restored Health”
Mom and I mom went on a 1.5 mile walk together this past weekend. And before that, she had just cut down a tree in the backyard before I even arrived that morning! I find her commitment to physical health so inspiring for someone her age, and it has motivated me to stay as active similarly.
When this “Shelter-in-Place” order came into effect, and knowing my mom was so very independent, my brothers and I were VERY nervous she would continue to shop and go out in the community on her own. After all, she has been doing this pretty successfully since she recovered from her stroke. When I was afforded the chance to work from home, however, this opened the door for me and my brothers to share some of the task of doing things for her so she could continue to live alone in her house, a good thing from a social distancing standpoint, without the risk of having her go out on in the community.
I have to give my brother, Ron, the most props for taking on the bulk of caring for my mom’s day to day needs. Currently, he visits her three days a week to ensure she has enough food and has other needs taken care of while I visit her on weekends. He and his wife, Runy, live in an isolated part of eastern Fresno County on 50 acres of land they own. Ron comes into town to visit mom regularly when he comes to pick up supplies and food to bring back to their home. Mostly, tending to their large land holding and their home is a near full-time job, but Runy encourages Ron to give up a sizeable amount of his time each week to also come down and help mom out and for that I’m very grateful and love them both dearly.
My other brother, Don (Ron’s twin) also lives in town and helps a great deal with a lot of the work that needs to be done on my mom’s house as he has great handyman skills. For example, he came over just yesterday to unclog mom’s sink as she has a lot of routine drainage problems. Don has been an awesome help to my mom and for this and many other reasons, I love him dearly as well. Don has a job working at Lowe’s for the last couple years which has been a great employer. Lowe’s like other hardware stores, have been deemed ‘essential’ so has remained open through the pandemic thus far. Because many of their older workers had the opportunity to opt out of working due to their age related conditions, Don has actually gotten more hours assigned to work than ever. In fact, he was rewarded employee of the month for his willingness to take on more hours with a ‘can do’ attitude they love about him. This had the unfortunate disadvantage of making it less safe for him to be near my mom, so he has agreed to stay away (or at least outside the house) until the pandemic is over.
While I’m in town and closer to where mom lives, I have had two reasons I couldn’t go over as often as Ron initially. First, like Don, my work has been pretty demanding especially the first 3-4 weeks of the shelter-in-place order were in place. Second, I needed to be careful the first few weeks I worked from home about going to my mom’s because I had the added risk of being potentially exposed in my work setting to nurses/doctors or those who work with them closely who might have been exposed themselves to patients with COVID. While that didn’t play out to be the case, I wasn’t sure, and so I actually kept to myself the room that served as my home office for the first two weeks I worked from home to be extra safe. I have a particularly risky situation in this regard, because my wife and I decided that we would have my mother-in-law move in with us for her safety. Prior to the pandemic, she lived in a shared living situation with other elderly people who need 24/7 care, and she is particularly in a guarded health condition that would make her particularly vulnerable to being infected with COVID. Between these two situations as well as my brother Don’s, it was important that my mom be cared all the more by my brother Ron. Ron has been very diligent about keeping his exposure to Covid limited too as he does the bulk of the shopping for mom along with what he need to buy for he and his wife. In the last three weeks I have been able to resume visiting my mom on weekends which has been wonderful as I feel I can help out so Ron doesn’t have to come down as often and it’s been nice to have one-to-one time with mom going on walks with her. While California seems to be moving toward relaxing some of the safeguards from the shelter-in-place order, I am still in a wait and see mode about the safety of that for my mom in her advanced age.
My daughters each had their own challenging situation to deal with the shelter-in-place similarly. First, Elowyn had been exposed to the public with her recent grand opening of the art studio. Fortunately, for her and Gigi, their schools stopped meeting in person and went to an all-remote format. This afforeded Gigi the ability to come back to Fresno once she got furloughed from her Starbucks job she had only recently started in January. The problem became where would Gigi stay. If she came to stay with us, she would put my mother-in-law at risk especially if she had been exposed to Covid during her work at Starbucks and was to pass the virus to us asymptotically. Gigi had the inspiration/dedication to our wellness to decide to live in her sister’s apartment. It made perfect sense, why put either of their grandmothers at risk by being around either me or Leah? Without asking, my two daughter made this arrangement and then called my wife and I to tell us that was what they had decided. I know I say this a lot about them, but I couldn’t yet again be more proud of how they have matured to the point of making such effective decision making as adults. Their mother and I know this is a testament to what God is doing in both their lives and we are so looking forward to what HE has in store for them next.
I share all this background to conclude that it took a Pandemic to bring my family together in this unique way. While this terrible virus is wreaking havoc across our nation and devastatingly killing so many, I have witnessed how it has brought my family all the more together in spirit if not physically. While I wish a quick end to this pandemic as anyone else would, I do NOT see this as ALL bad, that God can in fact do VERY GOOD things even as bad things happen to each of us. I pray my story helps prove this to be true for those reading this, particularly if you have found your own personal situation a daunting challenge to overcome as we have. I also want to acknowledge that my situation is NOT the same as others. Some have been deemed an essential worker, like my brother Don, but unlike him, they have children to care for as well. These are heroes as much as front-line healthcare workers as these are the folks making sure we have essential services like power, food and other products we need to live. I couldn’t imagine how hard it must be on those families, and so am immensely grateful to all of them just like I am for the medical providers/caregivers for their sacrifices. My prayer for all of them is that this pandemic would end soon so they can get their kids back into school and a routine that is more sustainable than the one we have today. I also pray that you all stay well and safe during this Pandemic, and that you too have gotten the chance to enjoy more quality time with your loved ones and that they too see the value this has brought to each of your relationships similarly.
Lastly, I want to share that I hope MOST of all that my story would be the antidote for what I shared at the beginning of this story and that is the negativity we all are too often reading about on Facebook, watching on the News, and seeing in many’s Twitter and other Social Media posts currently. In particular, I’m saddened by how many view the way the Pandemic is being handled by those responsible in our government for ensuring our public safety and wellness. Depending on each person, one might think that it is any number of individual people or organization’s “fault” that we are where we are at today. Some say it is President Trump and his leadership (or lack thereof) that caused this problem. Others blame the Democrats and view this as just another means to step up their government overreach. Yet others blame China or the World Health Organization for hiding or discounting the impact of the epidemic or even possibly engineering it, in the case of China, to cause all this worldwide havoc. Some think that the COVID-19 virus impact has been overstated and that it really is no worse than seasonal flu. Some have promoted the reckless use of treatments that have not been tested appropriately for efficacy despite the objection of those in authority to do so like the CDC or the FDA. Yet others have used that to “expose” claims others have been reckless in promoted unproven or worse even exaggerated claims like drinking bleach to humiliate those who never really suggested such.
Where did all this contempt, and in some cases downright hatred of others, come from? Is this what God planned in allowing this virus to take route in our world? While my faith tells me that God didn’t create this virus for the explicit reason to cause this havoc, I do think it is fair to say he didn’t stop this virus from coming to be what it has either. So why would God allow this to happen even when HE knew many would react in such a negative way ??? I think we have to go back to the story of Adam and Eve to understand the history here. We all know that story well enough to say that, despite God’s warning not to, both decided to take the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and become aware of the nature of Good and Evil. It has been downhill ever since. Though they were ashamed at first of what they had done hiding their ‘nakedness’ for the first time realizing they were so, Adam quickly took to blaming Eve citing that to God that it was “… the woman you put me with here…” as the culprit even though he watched her do it and never tried to stop her. Hmmm… sound familiar. I am saying that the “blame game” started from the very beginning of mankind. Can anyone really say no one knew we would have a pandemic someday? It had been clearly predicted for many years prior to this. In fact epidemic/plagues have happened many times over the history of mankind. We know that several hundred years ago, for example, that the Black (“Bubonic”) Plague killed off nearly 50% of Europe. More recently, the Spanish Flu of 1917-18 killed 60+ Million. Then just in the last couple decades, AIDS, SARS and MERS epidemics have killed many who were or became immune-compromised, in a way similar to how the COVID pandemic works as well. Those past epidemics were more easily contained than the coronavirus has been, which frankly makes this one the worst one I have witnessed in my lifetime.
So… with that history… who can really say, with any kind of intellectual honesty, that there is ONE single person or organization to blame for this without sounding a lot like Adam did in blaming Eve from eating from the Tree of Life? Yet, many of us so consider ourselves experts simply because we know how to Google stuff and/or copy MEME’s or sensationalized news reports. In doing so, we effectively become a modern day ‘Adam’ quick to blame others while shirking our own responsibility in how to prevent the spread of this terrible disease! The first victim of the blame game is often our own compassion for others and it this that has brought me to the boundaries of my own patience and tolerance of others who post what I consider misinformation and/or hurtful remarks on Facebook.
So while we all feel compelled to be judge, jury and executioner, yet there is a better way of life the can be found cited in the Bible…
First, from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians.
“But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all. If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1Corinthians 12:31, 13:1-7 NLT)
Paul wrote in his 2nd letter to Timothy, “The Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB).
John wrote in his first letter a similar note, “Love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love” (1 John 4:18 NLT).
Before any of those three letters were written, Jesus himself said , “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV)
Finally, Paul wrote to the letter to the Romans, that we “…not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Something that I do need to acknowledge is my perspective is a faith based one. Further, I have not, as a friend pointed out, been impacted as financially as others have… as yet. There is the reality all of us are dealing with is the uncertainty of whether if any of our jobs are going to be safe in the diminished economy that the Covid Pandemic has caused. As much as those factors haven’t impacted me, I believe if I had to choose losing all my wealth but keeping the health, well-being and love of my family in doing so, that would be a “no brainer” choice for me.
While some will regret the loss of some of our so-called “liberties”, I truly believe much like I have learned with my own family, that we have the potential to be a BETTER nation for the effort of working together to take care of our sickest and most vulnerable in our society… and that is something our whole nation can truly get behind independent of our political ideology.
What do you think? I have to believe we can do this better together with love for one another rather than we can apart with hate or contempt… don’t you?
May you stay well and healthy!