“When you can’t change the direction of the wind – adjust your sails” – H. Jackson Brown Jr. (American author known for his New York Times bestselling inspirational book, “Life’s Little Instruction Book).
Life has a way of throwing us a curveball every now and then. We sail along with a predetermined destination fixed in our minds, only to have some event that throws us off course, requiring us to make some adjustments. Three years ago, as I was finishing up a degree at Concordia University, I was looking forward to graduating and starting a career in my chosen field, only to be sidelined by a life-threatening heart arrhythmia caused by a leaky heart valve which required open heart surgery. I had to adjust my sails by putting aside my career plans and focus on my failing health. After a lengthy recovery, I started a rewarding new career only to find out I had breast cancer that would require another surgery and radiation therapy.
Unfortunately, the organization I was working for wouldn’t renew my contract knowing my future was so uncertain. Again, I needed to make some adjustments and turn my attention to my health once more. Eight months later, I started working as a program coordinator for the Montérégie West Community Network (MWCN), a local non-profit organization working diligently to make sure the voice of the English-speaking community was being heard. I finally found my dream job working for a group that is making a real difference. Six months later Covid hit, all my projects were shut down and I was laid off. Time to adjust…once again.
Amidst a global pandemic, much of the world has also had some major adjustments to make.
Most businesses, governments, schools, organizations, and community groups have been required to rethink the way they do things. But adjusting and rethinking can also mean new opportunities for growth.
During my COVID summer “off” I did a major clean-up on my garden, jumped on the bandwagon and learned to make my own sourdough bread from scratch, and with some inspiration from an MWCN paint night fundraiser and the many art workshops and classes offered in our Chateauguay office, I learned how to paint. The funny thing about these COVID summer endeavors; however, was that the greatest joy came from sharing it with others. Many of my paintings were made as gifts to friends and family: I gave one to my sister and a friend as birthday gifts, one to my elderly Russian neighbor, who speaks no English or French but who shares a love for gardening and flowers with me, one for a friend who was facing cancer and one for my grand-daughter. I liked some of their paintings
so much that I tried to duplicate them for myself, but I never got as nice a painting or as much satisfaction as I did with the ones that were destined for someone else.
Likewise, with my sourdough. After one month of nurturing my “starter” I finally got a rise large enough to make bread and immediately commenced sharing it with my friends and neighbors. We would connect over Facebook video Messenger to revel in our successes and laugh about our failures. It felt good to share my new found bread making skill, a few loaves of bread, a couple of extra pounds and some laughs with like-minded people.
Finally, doing a major clean-up in my garden required that I get rid of lots of perennial plants, so every time I had some extras, I would advertise on the Chateauguay Community Facebook page, offering free plants to anyone who wanted them. Experienced and novice gardeners messaged me, anxious to pick up some green goodies. They all came at different times, donning their masks and plastic bags to cart away their prized plants. We’d have discussions at a distance about gardening, the state of the world and the effects of Covid. All of us, eager to connect in person after months spent in isolation.
When the pandemic hit, MWCN had to adjust its sails too. Part of our job is to provide opportunities to break social isolation, particularly that of seniors. But how do we do that when government health guidelines dictate that we socially isolate in order to protect the most vulnerable? MWCN spent much of the summer making phone calls to check in on its members, stuffing and delivering care packages, setting up meal deliveries to those most at risk, and once the guidelines allowed, providing indoor and outdoor activities where people could safely connect at a distance. And we continue to adapt to the newest situation.
MWCN has moved many of its Fall 2020 activities online. Workshops to learn how to connect via Zoom, Getting the Most out of Your Tablet, Doodle Challenge Art Workshops, Book Club, Community Health Education Program webinars and French Conversation are just a few of our current offerings. Being considered an essential service allows us to offer a few activities in person, with strict hygiene protocols in place and smaller groups so that distancing measures can be observed. Look for us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theMWCN or at www.mwcn.ca to check out what we’re up to and let us know what you’ve done to
adjust your sails during pandemic times. In the meantime, we encourage you to look for ways to reach out to others in your community who may be struggling or just need a small pick-me-up. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a hidden talent while adjusting your sails!
Special Projects Coordinator