Agnieszka Yank and her dog

Hold on to Hope and be Resilient

March 31, 2020

As we are coping with the most unexpected circumstances that bring a lot of stress and anxiety, I have been thinking about what it means to be resilient at this this time. Specifically, how do we keep in balance the many worries in our present situation and sustain hope for the future when this pandemic is over? How do we remain resilient during these very trying times? The way I have been coping is by consciously noticing and intentionally acknowledging the many bright spots in our daily lives and keeping things in perspective. Here are some ideas and very personal examples I would like to share.

Show and savor the many acts of kindness

I try to take one or two walks each day, that is if I can squeeze one between zoom calls during the day and at least one in the evening. My black lab rescue is always eager and happy to be there with me. What I see on these walks is that strangers and neighbors alike, smile, wave and say hello, when they perhaps would not have done so in the past. Even drivers in cars passing by wave hello. We can show kindness and acknowledge each other especially now and from a distance! I am encouraged by this community spirit and daily acts of human connection and kindness.

A water pipe broke in our neighborhood the other day and we had no water for half a day. Neighbors called each other to share the news and prospects of getting water back. The hard-working crews of our water utility worked tirelessly and quickly got us reconnected. It is important to remember that beyond the amazing healthcare workers battling this disease, there are many people who put themselves at risk every day to help others and we need to keep acknowledging their acts of human kindness and caring!

Keep things in perspective

This is hard as we face losses big and small, while being confined to our homes and the normal rhythm of our lives being disrupted. Some life experiences will be permanently missed.

My son, who is a senior in high school, is missing out on prom, graduation, his last season of sports and seeing his friends and teachers every day for the last few short months. Those are all losses. And at least until today, when our Governor announced “stay at home” orders, he was able to go on a hike once or twice a week, with a just a couple of friends (keeping 6-foot distance!) in one of the gorgeous local parks along the Potomac. Throughout these times, he has to deal with bouts of emotions of anger and disappointment, but his spirits are also lifted as he receives good news about acceptance to a college that he really wanted to go to or that was a stretch.

It’s important not to forget what we still have: we have water to meet our basic needs, including washing hands really well, flushing toilets and washing dishes. As our experience shows, everyday convenience of running water should not be taken for granted—those and many other basic needs that are still being met are all things for which we can be grateful.

Cherish the deeply human moments

I have been inspired by so many of the colleagues on my team who stepped up and are doing such a great job managing the many aspects of our corporate function and going above and beyond, and picking up where I left things off to focus on managing this crisis. They work very hard—showing initiative and commitment—and offer great ideas and solutions. They are there for me and each other.

When a colleague expressed concern about her car left at the airport garage when she flew home, a number of people offered to go and move it to another location, so she doesn’t have to worry about it and incur the parking cost. And we all share and connect in new ways. During our Friday remote happy hour, we got to meet each other’s family members, pets, get tours of homes and backyards, share personal stories, and simply laugh and joke with each other. We find ways to connect remotely as human beings on a deeper level that would not have happened if not for this situation.

Draw on the wisdom of your personal heroes

When my mind jumps into an anxious place about our future, I remind myself about my late parents (my heroes). They were exactly the age my kids are today in 1939, when World War II began in Poland. When it ended, all they had were the clothes on their back and a baby, my oldest sister. They experienced the horror of a destructive war and once it was over, they had a pure hope for a better future for themselves and their young family.

I have witnessed my parents during many hardships and challenges in their lives, and they never lost hope for a better future. And as they got older, they hoped and worked for better tomorrow, if not for themselves, then for their children and grandchildren. That hope for the future, and their belief that we can come out of a challenge better and stronger as individuals and as a society, helps me to get through this crisis. It happened for my parents, and it will happen for us.

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