Story of the Month
Rather than sharing a story of one single woman and her approach to leading, for this update, we are sharing several Short Stories that reveal so beautifully many ways women, and men, have stepped up to lead during this disruptive time. Using their own strengths and passion, combined with their compassion for others, they have provided creative and collective opportunities for connecting and for navigating this unusual time.
April 2020: This is a Fertile Time
We’ve invited Jennifer LeMarte to set the stage for these Short Stories of leadership.
Jennifer was part of a group of graduate students (2011) who were exploring the concept that leadership is NOT a rare talent embodied by a few, but rather a quality possessed by every individual. With a sparkle in her eye, her vivid imagination ignited and her zest for living revealed, Jennifer commented: “It brings me happiness and excitement to imagine a world where everyone’s leadership gifts are valued. What an amazing place it would be – where artists, analysts, writers, musicians, accountants, designers, doctors, children, teachers, homemakers, and grandparents find a way to lead and that leadership is valued.”
These Short Stories of leading seem to reflect what Jennifer imagined:
Our wonderful Whidbey Threshold Singers sing in homes, hospitals and nursing homes for people who are ill and dying. One of our song-sisters is in hospice care and nearing the end of her life. Because we can no longer sing in her home, three of us at a time are singing for her while we stand 6 feet apart outside the bay window where she spends most of her time. It is a gift to her and to each of us. She has lovely plans for a ritual after she passes, but we probably will not be able to do that at this time. We also have a couple of folks for whom we are singing on the phone.
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People from our street have been gathering for several weeks at a safe distance at 6pm every evening to clap — for first responders, medical people, delivery and take-out folks, National Guard, individuals, children trying to learn…anyone we can think of. One neighbor hits her huge Tibetan singing bell and we all clap and clap and clap… We are grateful to the Italians for inspiring us.
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One teacher/Mom, home because her school was closed, and with children home because their school was closed, and with husband who was required to work from home, realized that almost every day had “good, bad’ and ugly” moments. She shared some of those with her Facebook friends, and invited them to share their experiences. Not only did this provide an opportunity for connection and mutual support, it also brought unexpected insight. She commented at one point, that while that day had been tough, nevertheless a great deal of grace and forgiveness was demonstrated.
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Every morning precisely at 9 o’clock, “ping,” Grandma’s facetime device “goes live” for literacy time. Grandma reads picture books and practices pre-reading skills with her preschool granddaughter. She is making her very own ABC book. Next, the second grader comes on to read to Grandma (or be read to) mastering her first chapter books. She writes a summary after each one. They also work on concepts like compound words and prefixes and suffixes. While only “virtual,” it is keeping them tightly connected, giving a degree of structure to their days and hopefully providing the girls important support for their continued learning through this difficult time when they are unable to go to school.
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As it was just beginning to be clear that wearing a mask would be required in Washington State, a talented seamstress secured a pattern, examined her fabric stash and started making masks. Then turning her creativity to “distribution,” she used brown paper bags to create “envelopes” for the masks and delivered them to all her neighbors. Soon, the prospect of wearing a mask didn’t seem like such an imposition – when that mask was comfortable to wear, and made of colorful, breathable fabric.
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One enterprising individual contacted the Activities Director of a “caring community” near her home and asked if there were ways others could help. Hearing an enthusiastic Yes! from the Director, Judy promptly sent out a letter to over 100 people letting them know of this opportunity. The Director suggested cards, letters, etc., bagged and marked for residents or staff and left outside the front door, or mailed.
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The Seattle Times, March 30, highlighted other creative ways folks were leading in their article: “Neighborhoods find powerful ways to stay connected amid Seattle’s coronavirus social distancing.” From Drive-by parades to Window Scavenger Hunts, from singing from their individual porches, to a silent dance (the only requirement for this – that everyone stayed 6 feet apart at all times), ordinary individuals, using their own talents and their concern for others, initiated opportunities for community while staying apart.