A Confluence of Kindness

7 minutes

“C’mon. Let’s go outside.”

My kids, still wearing sleepy eyes and rumpled pajamas, stumbled out the front door into the unfamiliar daylight and stared at me.

“What are we doing?” my son wonders.

“Are we getting donuts?” my daughter asks.

My kids do not think I'm particularly funny either.

My kids do not think I'm particularly funny either.

No, I tell them. It’s time for back-to-school pictures. Even though I’d go over to their mother’s house the next day for their first official back-in-school pictures, they were with me for the first day of classes and I wanted to commemorate what has been the weirdest back-to-school of my or their lives.

I still remember the day I sat at my old desk in the old office—both of which we’ve left behind after months of working from home as Oklahoma Today prepares to move into our new downtown digs—and read with curiosity as COVID-19 tore through Asia and Europe.

“There’s no way it’ll get here,” I thought. “Nothing ever gets here.”

Well, it is 2020, so I guess hindsight is a given, right? Over the last six months, coronavirus indeed arrived and insinuated itself into every facet of our lives. We were on deadline when we got the word that we’d be working from home. My kids’ school had already shut down in-person classes, which meant at least part of my time at home would be spent navigating their lessons, extending my work day a bit.

Now, after a summer that felt both endless and non-existent, on the eve of returning to an office environment and the start of our November-December issue deadline, my kids are back in school part time and I’m trying to wrap my head around what, if anything, normal will be for us.

It doesn't take me long to mess up a new workspace.

It doesn't take me long to mess up a new workspace.

It’s times like this I wish for some kind of unity of experiences, some shared foundation on which we could agree and build a new future, but this year has been anything but unifying. I haven’t seen many of my closest friends for nearly six months. Social media feels like walking into the middle of a fistfight where everyone is mad at me all the time. Even my children are not unified with their classmates as before. Rather than go fully online, we chose for our kids to return to the classroom part time, spending two days a week with their teacher and three days at home navigating iPads and Chromebooks in a desperate bid to return to some semblance of the old life. That means half of their classmates they’ll never see, not even counting the many kids who are solely doing virtual learning.

So I figured I’d share with you the advice I gave them before they half-nervously, half-excitedly returned to their classrooms.

Be kind The pandemic has been tougher on some than others and I am fully aware that it’s gone easy on me. The people I know who have had COVID-19 had mild cases and recovered quickly. My job has accommodated me throughout. But let’s not play a game of who’s had it worse—there’s always someone having a rougher time of it—and instead appreciate that it’s hard on all of us in one way or another. That calls for kindness. Taking a beat before you say that very mean thing that is borne of frustration instead of malice.

Getting to visit the J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve in Tahlequah for work was definitely something I'm thankful I could experience.

Getting to visit the J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve in Tahlequah for work was definitely something I'm thankful I could experience.

Be thankful How are you lucky? How are you fortunate? How do you still smile at the end of the day? Who has been there for you when worse comes to worse? I am trying, so very hard, to be thankful for all that I have. I try to tell the people I love that I love them more often. Not just family, but friends, and even those strangers whose actions have made me breathe a little easier or laugh a little harder. We all deserve that much.

Wear your masks Granted, that’s a must for the kids back in school and for me as I experience the unfamiliar sensation of seeing people who are not my immediate family or beamed onto my computer screen, but still. No one is especially fond of wearing a mask in Oklahoma in the summer, but we do it to keep each other safe.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help I’ve had a heck of a week and, while it’s not in my nature to depend on the kindness of others, I’ve been giving vulnerability a go and confiding in my friends about my troubles. When necessary, I ask for help or at least understanding. And you know what? People are (more often than not) extremely willing to listen and support me, which is something my brain has conditioned me not to expect. If you’re struggling, and I think we all are sometimes, lean on others. Just be sure to be there when they need a good leaning, too.

Written By
Greg Elwell

Web Editor Greg worked for newspapers, medical research organizations, and government institutions before he joined *Oklahoma Today*. He also is the publisher of the website I Ate Oklahoma.

Greg Elwell
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