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Welcoming Communities: Change is here. How will we respond?

Change — What is our response to change? If we view change as an opportunity, we tend to be more proactive. If we look at change as a loss, we may be more reactive. Depending on our day, our response to change may be proactive, reactive or somewhere in between. Because COVID-19 came on so fast and the outcome continues to be uncertain, it is natural to experience a sense of loss and grief. Change associated with racial tension and moving toward equity (an approach that ensures everyone has access to the same opportunities) also appeared to come on fast though we’ve been living with lack of equity for our lifetimes. How long we stay in reactive mode is up to us but an important part of change is to learn how to accept and live with it in new neighborly ways.

During these times we can think of it as being physically distant but socially connected. In the future, we must think about practical ways to inspire others to keep building physically and socially connected societies. We do this by listening actively, learning from one another remaining open to change, as we become accomplished individuals not because of a superficial measure of success, but because of our own role in developing interconnected communities. This will allow future generations to enjoy a better world, changed by our own actions that allows people to have equal access to opportunities, and allows each to bring their best to a society that has fully embraced people of different backgrounds.

Somewhere in my readings, I came upon these statements, “Social isolation is the public health crisis of our time,” “COVID-19 is the public health crisis of our time,” “Racism is a national emergency and the public health crisis of our time.” I believe all statements are true. Somehow during this time, we must stay socially connected. The depth and breadth of our social connections are important. If we want to create more connections, we have to put aside our judg\ments, develop empathy, learn to trust, and be really present by listening effectively. Being neighborly and establishing social connections during COVID-19 is complicated but it is a perfect time to get to the heart of who you are by examining your feelings about social connections, social justice and social equity. I have been examining my white privilege and struggling with my own and community racial disparities both historically and in the present moment. Sometimes it feels like deep pressure in my head and heart and soul. This is not easy work but change must come and I want to be the change that I want to see. There are times that I want to walk away and I can walk away from the realities of racism but a person of color cannot walk away. I am learning to hold on to new information. I am learning to listen and take small steps to learning new skills. I am learning to step up and to speak out. This I do know, we need to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly as we pay close attention to our neighbors because they need us as partners during these crises.

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