Picture the scene: I’m in the middle of an 8-hour “Building Trusted Teams” training at the Veterans’ Administration but have to give the class a 10 minute break so I can hop outside to my car to retrieve the power cord to my laptop.
As I walk to my car and enter the crosswalk I’m looking down at my phone, multi-tasking as usual.
Email messages: check.
Text messages: check.
Voice mail messages: check.
Then a quick social hit — anything trending I need to know about? Nope. Okay, I am at the car.
And, then I’m startled by a car honking. A woman is rolling down her window to yell at me. “Get off your phone. You made me wait for you to cross the street!”
Now, multi-tasking is one of my superpowers so I know I was walking at my normal pace while I was reading my messages. I caused this woman no delay at all. “Jeez”, I think, “Really? Get over yourself!”
Then I dismissed her. Just like that the incident is out of my mind and I’m racing back up to the training room. No time to reflect. No time to analyze. No time to question whether I actually did delay her. No time to question, should I have put my phone away?
No time to connect.
No time to pause.
But do you know what? Now, I’ve paused. And it only took a global pandemic for me to do so. Perhaps you can relate…?
A global pause.
COVID19 is terrifying. While I don’t tend to be an alarmist, it’s safe to say that we’re past the “it’s only the flu” stage of denial: the threat is real, and I don’t mind admitting that I’m cautious when it comes to the safety of my loved ones (and myself!). And I’m sure that with states all over the country enforcing mandatory stay home edicts, I don’t need to urge you to be cautious either.
But one thing I would urge you to do is to take advantage of this unexpected moment and look up from your phone.
When you do, you’ll see that our forced pause is manifesting itself in ways none of us could have imagined. You’ll see couples all over the place holding hands. Families playing games together. Families cooking meals together and eating at the dinner table.
On a larger, more global scale, you’ll see the images of people in Italy singing to each other from balconies. Entire communities coming together (apart) to cheer their health care providers. Companies giving to our first responders without hesitation. Children sewing masks to keep people safe or placing teddy bears in windows to keep other kids amused when they’re out walking.
While I would, of course, never advocate for a pandemic, I am finding this global sense of community to be truly inspirational.
This is exactly what community should be about and I wonder if maybe, just maybe, we all needed a reminder that if we take a pause we might see, we might do, and we might feel something really authentic. That we might — finally — be on the right track to finding meaningful connections.
So if you haven’t put your phone down and looked up during this pause. Don’t wait.
Do it now and I bet you’ll be astounded by what you see: the beautiful spirit of the people who are leading and empowering others; the kindness and compassion of those who have been moved to help. You’ll see that life is so much more than a checklist; you’ll see what truly matters and where your real priorities lie.
And you might just decide that never again will you need a car horn blaring at you, or a global pandemic, to take a pause, to slow down, and to find a way to connect with the humanity within and around you.
I know I won’t.