In the early days of the pandemic, a medical student working for a health literacy program noticed that many of her clients didn’t have access to easy-to-understand COVID information because they didn’t speak English.
So she reached out to fellow multilingual students and created 19 COVID fact sheets in 40 languages. These fact sheets have now been downloaded 250,000 times in more than 150 countries. Not bad for a working medical student, who surely has less free time than most of us.
When I read stories such as these, I wonder what else we could accomplish if we simply took ownership. There are so many needs in this world, if we only pay attention. A quick glance at our local newspaper could identify such a need. We could then find others willing to help. There are helpers everywhere.
Yet, few people have one, despite the fact that cars break down, roofs leak, and pandemics hit.
Today I listened to this story of a businessman and it reminded me of the responsibility businesses have to build rainy day funds. After 22 years in business, this man was unable to pay his business rent the first month of the pandemic. Since then, he has borrowed $130K to keep his business open and had to scrap his retirement plans.
A personal rainy day fund is a responsibility we have to protect our families. A business rainy day fund is a responsibility we have to protect our employees, suppliers and customers.
If you don’t have one, start one today. If you do have one, make sure it can cover one year of expenses.
There were snacks in the kitchen and, occasionally, leftovers from a business lunch.
I often had lunch with colleagues in the cafeteria. Sometimes we went out to eat.
One Friday each month someone would bring breakfast treats for the whole floor. Once a year we had a holiday pot luck.
I’ve had meals at my boss’ home. I’ve had my team over for dinner at my house.
My best memories of business travels around the globe all have one thing in common: sharing some local fare with colleagues, everyone joking and laughing and smiling.
All this is gone now.
Food is a connector. It brings us together. It forces different conversations, revealing who we are and not simply what we do. We crave these connections. Breaking bread together is a tradition in all cultures. To be human is to eat together. From times immemorial.
We can’t fill this need with a Zoom meal. This craving will remain unfulfilled until the pandemic is over. It will affect the mental health of every employee to some degree.
Leaders must be mindful of this reality. They must find other ways to connect with their team. They must ask employees to follow social distancing rules, to wear a mask, to wash their hands and to get vaccinated.
May we all soon get back together and raise our glasses to good health.
A waiter paid $2.13 an hour is as vulnerable as a salesperson who lives almost exclusively from commissions. Neither can earn a living without the tips or the commissions. In good times, that might not be a problem. In a downturn, that financial pressure will often lead them to engage in wrongdoing.
A recent study of “tipped service workers” show that many do not enforce COVID-19 safety measures at their bar or restaurant for fear of losing their tips (the study also shows in increase in harassment of such workers). In an economy where tip workers have lost half their income because fewer people go out to eat, workers cannot afford to lose their tips. Even if this means putting themselves and others at risk.
So when a patron gets up from their table to go to the bathroom and doesn’t wear their mask, the waiter reluctantly looks the other way. Or, worse, when a patron asks his server to take off her mask so he can decide how much to tip her (gasp!), she puts her health, and other people’s, at risk. According to the CDC, adults who had contracted COVID-19 were twice as likely as virus-free adults to have recently dined at a restaurant (source).
A big part of the solution is to pay employees a fair wage, so they don’t feel pressured to break the rules. A salesperson who can pay the rent is less likely to forge the signature of a customer on a fake contract to make his monthly commission. A waiter who can keep the heat on this winter is more likely to keep her mask on too.
Curious about what single post had the most views in this year of pandemic and social injustice, I was surprised when my stats showed a 2017 entry, which was viewed twice as often as my most popular post from 2020.
In this post on stoic patience, I quote Marcus Aurelius’ advice that we should live life truthfully and rightly, and be patient with those who don’t.
2020 has indeed been a year when many have suffered, and in some cases died, because of the lies and wrongdoings of a few. In the face of injustice, many lose patience. But losing patience comes at a cost. Suffering and injustice should strengthen our resolve, not diminish our patience. It should propel us into just action, not into other forms of injustice.
Marcus would remind himself every morning that he would meet, in the course of his day, people that are rude and selfish and lying. He knew that a world without jerks is impossible. And so he simply accepted this reality and prepared himself to respond with kindness.
And so must we.
Let’s end 2020, and start 2021, with more truth and kindness and patience.