When I was 9 years old, my family went on a cruise vacation. It was and has been the only time I have ever been on a boat. I distinctly remember the day that the ship left the port. There was a storm rolling in. Smaller boats bobbed up and down as they were tossed by the waves. The Sovereign of the Sea was steady and confident, unscathed, as its 900 feet of steel carved through the water. The relevance of this story to current events is that we are all in the same storm but different sized boats.
Recently I was asked for my position on said current events. Those types of questions often feel like a trap which is why the parable was used to initiate this letter. But in attempt to answer more pointedly, we need a lens in which to view the question.
- Over 17% unemployment rate throughout Monroe County
- Small businesses, namely restaurants, struggling to survive under newly imposed regulations
- An estimated 1000 childcare facilities to close in Pennsylvania
- Racial injustice, trauma and unrest permeating throughout every community
- Over 200,000 deaths related to COVID-19
My position is one of mourning. I grieve with those that have lost loved ones to COVID-19, senseless killings, and acts of violence. I grieve the loss of hopes and dreams that came in the form of small businesses, first day of school pictures, and “normal” family gatherings. I grieve the loss of community that valued commonality over difference, justice over political affiliation, and understanding over assumptions.
My grandfather once said, “it is easier to critique than create.” It may feel easier to find something within this letter that you oppose, latch on to it, and tear it apart. I would encourage you to refrain and rather to create an opportunity to connect. With me. With someone that you disagree with, and have a meaningful conversation, not argument.
United Way was originally created as a ‘united way’ to fundraise for a community. Could the concept be applied in how we care for one another? In a recent Cultural Competency training by my friend Kumari Ghafoor-Davis, I heard her say, “we all do better when we all do better”. I do not believe this was a Pollyanna attempt at socialism. But instead, it was a value statement for equity, racial and gender. A ‘united way’ approach to current events is to be your brother’s keeper. But in current events, your brother could be unemployment, a small business owner, a child in need of care, a black or brown person whose skin color has been the reason for injustice or mistreatment, or someone still grieving the loss of life, claimed too early by a racially-charged killing, COVID-19, cancer, or any other horrible disease.
These thoughts are just one man’s attempt to believe in humanity. Believe me, I get frustrated just like you. I see opposing views and label people far too quickly. But I want to be better. I want to create space in my own heart for those issues that I do not understand. For us to put ourselves in the shoes of a restaurant owner, someone unemployed, a person of a different race, or a family member grieving loss of life would hopefully create a little more community. I never want to be so jaded that I do not make the attempt. I am going to try…If you are interested in creating this way of life, feel free to drop me a line. Michael@PoconoUnitedWay.org.
– Michael Tukeva, President & CEO, Pocono Mountains United Way