Our lives turned upside down by mid-March when an invisible germ knocked on doors across the world, entered, and decided to stay. Strange and unwanted, the coronavirus derailed carefully planned events and upset our lives in a manner that hasn't been seen since the flu pandemic of 1918.
Traveling To India
In February, I led a group of hearty travelers to India for the sixth time, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We carried masks in our suitcases as a precaution and made sure to tell the customs officers when we arrived in South India that we were coming to Chennai from Boston, not China (seriously). Little did we realize that Wuhan, China would become the epicenter of a worldwide pandemic that has killed nearly one million people.
Black History Breakfast
Deciding to host my March 12th Black History Breakfast was a difficult choice. Conditions gradually deteriorated when I returned from India straight through ramping up for the Breakfast. By March 11th, the cancellations poured in from sponsors and supporters who could not attend because of company policies or just fear of this thing called COVID-19. I worked with the hotel to make sure we had plenty of space between seats and ample hand sanitizer. Our usual practice of hugging and kissing our keynote speaker and award recipients was strictly prohibited. We elbow bumped instead. It ended up being a lovely event and was one of the last events that the hotel held before shutting down for several months.
Attending The Final Face To Face Church Service
I attended my last face to face church service on Sunday, March 15th. Our church, Bethel AME in Boston, has been virtual ever since, with one exception of a parking lot service held last week. The building is closed, and the Zoom/Facebook/YouTube services will continue until probably sometime in 2021. We have adapted, and the church is busier than ever online!
Hunkering Down At Home
Since those two special events on March 12th and March 15th, I have largely stayed at home. Fortunately, I have had a home office for more than 20 years and shifted a portion of my business online five years ago. Transitioning all of my business activities online was not that difficult. I have used the Zoom platform for years, never knowing that I would become a Zoom trainer and would run my entire speaking and training business on Zoom as these weeks have turned into months.
I learned to adapt to this sea change caused by COVID-19. All of the earlier ups and downs of my personal and professional life prepared me for this era. Little did I realize that the hard work preparing for and presenting my TEDx talk on "Facing Fear" last October would actually foreshadow the anguish, sadness, sickness, and death brought on by this nasty virus.
Last month I took my first COVID test (the self-administered nasal version) and tested negative. My younger daughter and son in law, who live with me, have also tested negative. In a few weeks, I'll take the test again to ensure a negative result to an awful intruder.
Missed Visits With My Grandchildren
I miss seeing and hugging my granddaughters and their parents, who I have not seen in person since January. That's the toughest part of fighting this deadly disease.
Adjusting To This New Normal
Spending long stretches indoors find me working longer in my office. I have started some deep dive cleaning projects in my house, long overdue from years on the road. I don't expect to travel until next summer or later in 2021 and don't anticipate traveling internationally until 2022.
Being at home so much has been a blessing to my front and back porches! I have flowers and plants everywhere! I have purchased many of my plants from the farmer about five minutes from my house. Her plants are hearty, and she operates on the honor system. You buy what you want and leave the money in her change box! Her basil plants are flourishing on my front and back porch, and I enjoy the soups, veggie dishes, and salads made with my basil, parsley, and chives. My king coleus plants look like small trees, but I had to make some adjustments on my front porch when the deer decided to eat the giant leaves for dinner!!
Economic Pandemic and Job Layoffs
What a difference six months make!!! On top of job cuts, including my younger daughter, Michelle's layoff as a high school paraprofessional, canceled projects, and business closures yield economic forecasts of uncertainty we could have never predicted five years ago.
America's racial climate turned ugly following the tragic death of George Floyd. His murder triggered a worldwide outbreak of protest rallies. Black Lives Matter signs are rallied from Seattle to Johannesburg, and CEOs wrote apology letters all over the country.
My diversity services hit a fever pitch all summer long. Training sessions, C-Suite forums, and Third Shift workshops…you name it, and I've held it on Zoom. The key will be to sustain the anti-racism workshops and implicit bias training sessions well into 2021 AND beyond so that systemic change can become a permanent part of our institutions and communities throughout the United States.
I'll save my comments, predictions, and actions about the upcoming presidential election for my next post. I have too much to say to cram it all in one essay. This commentary sets the stage for my comments on where we are headed as a country on November 3rd.
In the meantime…
Wash your hands for 20 seconds.
Wear your face mask everywhere.
Keep your distance.
Make sure you complete your US. Census Form by September 30th.
The adventure of our lives has only just begun.
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.