My campaign has been on hold for a few weeks. My Mom, Lucy VandenHeede, died March 5th after suffering a stroke the previous Sunday. Needless to say, she and our family have been my focus lately. We were fortunate that we were all able to be with her in the hospital in her final days and were able to have a celebration of life service with many family and friends. If it all had happened a week later, we would not have been able to be with her in the hospital nor would we have been able to have the gathering of family and friends. My heart goes out to families struggling with hospitalizations and deaths in this time of social distancing; this is a time when we could all use a hug, and those experiencing loss especially so.
This, however, is a message of hope. My mother’s death, as these events often are, was a cause for reflection. At her service I spoke of her legacy; not a traditional list of achievements, but the legacy I see everyday through her grandchildren, three of whom are my children. Her lessons, examples, hobbies and kindness live on through her family. As I reflected on what each of us has learned from my mom, I challenged each grandchild to choose another aspect of her to take with them, to make their own as a continuing part of her legacy. For myself, I choose to try and adopt her gratitude. My mom had a good life, and she recognized it. Whatever was going on, she tried her hardest to stay positive and was always thankful for the blessings in her life.
These are trying times to stay positive and have gratitude, but I believe we have much to be grateful for and staying positive is a must. After mom died recently; my wife, Jodie, said it wouldn’t hurt so much if we didn’t love so much. It was a comforting thought that helped me recognize how much we have to be grateful for. We had lost our matriarch, but were fortunate to have had such a caring and compassionate woman who passed these characteristics, and many more, on to her family.
In these uncertain and scary times it is worth reflecting on how good we really have it in this country. How the inconveniences, and for some lost income and value of investments, are relative to how good we have had it. In other words, it wouldn’t hurt so much if we hadn’t had it so good. I don’t at all mean to trivialize the financial and emotional strain so many in this country are facing. The hardship is real and will require all the support - financial and otherwise - we can muster as a country to right our collective ship. I am confident, however, that we can, and will, get through this.
A large part of what gives me confidence that we shall overcome this is that I have been a student and teacher of history for over 30 years. Other than immigrants and refugees who came here fleeing war, poverty, crime and other perils unimaginable to us, there are few Americans who have lived through anything like this. But it is not unprecedented, others have faced far more deprivation. The “Greatest Generation”, those who survived the Great Depression and World War Two, are fast disappearing. What we can learn from them, and from history, is that we are tougher than we imagine and we will get through this and be better for it.
One of the things that make people great is the ability to come together in a time of stress and tragedy to help each other out - to recognize that we are all in this together and so we must all do our part to insure the ones most affected have all the support we can give. As ideologically divided as our country has been recently, this is a time to put that aside and to all pull together and show our true compassion. There will be time after this is all over to look for underlying causes and what could have been done better, there will be finger pointing and there will be lessons learned. Now is not that time. When the house is on fire everyone needs to work together to put the fire out, we can look for - and argue about - what caused it later.
So what can you do? Beyond the obvious precautions to protect yourselves and others, think about what others may be going through and help where you can.
If you have a car and you know others that don’t, offer a ride or to pick up essentials.
Donate blood, blood drives have been shut down because of COVID-19 leading to a shortage, but there are centers taking donations trying to make up for the shortfall. You can find a place to donate here: http://www.aabb.org/tm/donation/Pages/Blood-Bank-Locator.aspx
Reach out to family and friends, check in on them to give support, especially the elderly or people who may be especially isolated.
Shop local, at this time Michigan is allowing restaurants to offer takeout and delivery - if you can afford to, support them - and tip well.
If you have extra food - or toilet paper - stockpiled, share with those who need it.
If you are one of the many who find themselves with unplanned time off work and are fortunate enough to have what you need to get by, consider not just what you can do for others, but what you can do for yourself. Take the time to reflect on your life, what’s important and what you want to do.
Do you have anyone to thank? A note of gratitude helps not only the receiver, but the giver.
Do you have anyone to apologize to? Like a word of gratitude, a sincere apology helps both sides.
Have you been wishing you had more time to pursue a hobby? Learn a language? Read? Exercise? Now is your time.
Remember, we are all in this together. Let’s stay positive and do our best for ourselves and for each other.