How does one cope and stay Joyful amidst a difficult time of isolation, quarantine, separation, worries of job loss, teaching your children at home while virtually navigating through too many Zoom meetings and not having enough band width? On top of that you may be sequestered in another state or country with an expired driver’s license or Passport. I could go on and on but I know you get the picture. Let me lighten your load with several bright moments in my life while I coped with some of the above conundrums.

Once upon a time, when everything was bright and sunny in the world, I went to work at Mid-State Literacy Council. I pulled into McAllister Deck found a spot and paid for my parking. I hauled my bag of work with my packed lunch, and purse. No I was not alone or wearing a mask. I walked in to see busy but smiling Tracy Roth and the tutors tutoring, a class was being set up, other students were entering the building, and the coffee was perking. I waved at Amy as I entered the back office. It was a beautiful fall morning. I navigated through my initial work when I had a question for Amy. Before long Amy and I were chatting about how to help our clients feel successful, especially our at risk grandparents raising their grandchildren. Amy shared a book she thought would enlighten me to many hope filled innovative ideas. She handed me her second copy, which I still have and promise to return before I finish this blog. The book is Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. That was my first bright moment, pre-pandemic. The author Ingrid Fetell Lee organized her book into ten chapters that teach a truth that she has learned throughout her investigative eight-year travels. I will highlight three of her truths through my experiences during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Truth: Abundance through Amy Wilson
“I want you to feel safe, and we will transport your desktops to your home. I put new handmade masks on your desks, (please wash them before you wear them). I bought a box of disposable masks, and I put sanitizing wipes are on your desk. Please fill out this form and email it to me so I know you are safe and you will be alone at Mid-State. We all can learn beyond Zoom and WhatsApp, and please let me know if you need me to order anything for your tutors or students. I have tons of toilet paper so don’t worry about the hoarders”. Amy always shows she cares and nothing is too much for Mid-State to provide because we are a team in the business of abundant excellence for the sake of our clients.

Truth: Harmony through Tracy Roth
“I have the Zoom meetings all set up for Centre Gives, and also all the Mailchimp emails ready to launch for our virtual quest for our annual drive. I only need photos from you Karen, and maybe a short blog on the Grandparent Initiative and the book deliveries to the schools, and food banks. Erika you have a piece on a student success story we will use. I will integrate everything into the emails. Oh and I will send out all the invitations, and public announcements. Let’s do a rehearsal so we don’t run out of time. I am starting the Zoom meetings for our tutors for our trainings at the end of the month”. Harmony happens with Tracy, and her willingness to stay on top of everything and keep Mid-State humming.

Truth: Surprise through Erika Reutzel-Bechtel
“I am the Literacy ESL expert and I have so much to learn from all of you! I think we would benefit from an interview process that gives us detailed information about our students so we can meet their needs better, let me work on the tutor trainings with you Tracy. Karen let me show you how to link a website in an email or document, then you can use that in your Power Points for the Grandparent Initiative. At the end of a zoom meeting, Erika states, “I was great seeing you, I miss you all so much, I miss going in to Mid-State; do you think the ventilation is safe for us all to breathe?” I am always surprised by all the new innovative ideas Erika shares. We all are!!!

I still have the book and I am dragging my heels to finish the last chapter, because I don’t want to let it leave my hands. “I promise Amy, I will return your book soon.” In the words of the author in the last chapter, Renewal, Ingrid states a message of hope and beauty in the tenacity of a single flower, “ I never fail to feel joy when I see a little flower poking through a crack in the sidewalk, blithely asserting itself among the solid rectangles of the modern city. Though it stands alone in a place where it obviously doesn’t belong, it bears no self-consciousness and seems unbothered by the obstacles presented by the site in which it happened to sprout. It does its best to harvest the rays of sunlight, capture the rains, and smile open its petals to the sky”.

In the book, Joyful, hope is the message, and that is what we do while we plant, nurture, and gather knowledge. It is harvested here at Mid-State Literacy Council unbothered by the obstacles presented in this current pandemic!

by Karen Loerch, ABE Literacy Coordinator

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