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New "normal"

I applaud everyone who was out there this weekend making their voices heard for equity and justice. Today, I passed by a group at the Friends meetinghouse downtown who were peacefully protesting, in solidarity for Black Lives Matter. And I have seen similar gatherings along my routes this past weekend.

I think we all have a great opportunity to really communicate with each other about where we are, how we got here and how we can move forward towards real change in our society, that is long overdue.

That being said, I had a bit of normalcy this weekend and was delighted! I host a walk in one of our county parks every first Saturday of the month and have been on hiatus because of the pandemic. Now that we have permission to go out and walk in groups again, I led a small group of five through the woods in Smithville Park on Saturday. Some of the folks have been on walks with me before and it was so good to see them again, and know they are healthy and safe. We also had some newcomers, who are always welcome.

I have been leading these groups since February 2019 (remembering how cold it was then, I don’t know why anyone continued with me, LOL) and have met some interesting people on our jaunts. Each had their reason for joining the group. Maybe it was to get outdoors in the safety of a group, maybe it was to be held accountable to getting some exercise, or just maybe it was to not be alone.

I think that is one of the hardest things we have had to cope with in our social isolation. The loneliness of not interacting with each other regularly, whether it was in the workplace, at a shop, or at the gym. We had our stresses in those interactions at times, but now I think we actually miss them, because it was an opportunity to connect.

That is part of why so many people are going out to join peaceful demonstration, and go on walks, despite COVID-19. We need to interact with each other, look in each other’s eyes and see the humanity before us. It is different now, because yes, we wear masks to protect ourselves and others.

What I find interesting about wearing a mask is that it really causes us to pay attention to another person when they are speaking. We only get half of the facial cues we used to now that the lower half of our face is covered. Eyes can be so expressive!

So maybe you think I am rambling. Yes, a bit. I am also reflective on how much I enjoyed setting up the walks, meeting new people, having quiet discussions, or spotting bald eagles as we walked the trail. It is these moments that I am that much more aware of now that things have slowed down. I am that more attentive to others, as we slow our pace.

Do you feel grateful for the extra time you get to spend with your kids, dog, cat, partner during this sequestration? Do you feel grateful for all the people out there doing their jobs, in hospitals, supermarkets and delivery vans, keeping things as normal as possible for you? Do you feel grateful that technology helps us stay connected with each other? Do you feel grateful for the health and well-being of those you love? I know I am.

Have you also noticed things that you didn’t pre-COVID, when we were all so busy running around from one place to another, with not enough time in the day to get all of our important stuff done? Have you noticed how some things are not as important as they used to be? Have you spent time considering what you want to have in your life (or not) when we return to “normal”?

This unusual convergence of the pandemic and a long overdue societal shift in recognizing how we treat people of color has given us a unique opportunity to reflect on what we value, what we envision our world could look like and give us the rare chance to do something about it. I, for one, am looking forward to the new "normal" and am hopeful for the future.

Have a great week!

Coach Michelle

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