May 6, 2020 - Week 8 of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Reflections from a walk around my Jamaica Plain neighborhood
Alex McCray, Sr. Director of Programs, Philanthropy Massachusetts
Given our current environment, with each passing day I experience a different set of thoughts and emotions. One moment I feel in control and hopeful; other moments I’m unfocused and terrified. This is completely normal and ok. This morning, during what has become an almost daily walk, I found myself reflecting on the past eight weeks. Some of my multiple identities surfaced in those fleeting thoughts – able-bodied, Black, male, gay, Philanthropy Massachusetts employee, son, brother, husband, friend, volunteer, and donor. I’m incredibly grateful for my multiple identities, and my life. Three years ago at this time I was unemployed and back then many days were challenging as I looked for leadership roles within the nonprofit/philanthropic sector, after just moving to JP. I wondered when the job search process would end. I was ready for it to come to a screeching halt. I was done after more than a year of being out of work. When would I find that which I was seeking? When would my feelings of inadequacy, frustration, disappointment and sadness cease? I can imagine how those who are now unemployed or underemployed may feel in the midst of COVID-19. Today, I have a job that I truly appreciate, one that I believe is making a difference. Throughout my walk I was reminded of our ability as humans to persevere in the face of uncertainty and real hardship. Things change.
COVID-19 is a different kind of hardship, another huge test for us. This pandemic is forcing most of us to slow down, take a breath and reflect on who we are and who we want to be. It can be very uncomfortable and yet, what an opportunity we have to learn about ourselves, and grow into better individuals. There’s nothing like a crisis, particularly one of this type that is uncovering and highlighting all kinds of structural and systemic challenges, particularly for marginalized communities and communities of color, to get us to really think about who we are and the world in which we live.
Who am I? Even with the uncertainty of the future, I’m here now, able to take a walk in my neighborhood. Right now I have my health, some level of financial security, love and support around me, all helping me to cope and make it through this challenging moment in our history. I’m grateful and also recognize that any of it could change in a single moment. Many do not have these resource and tools to cope, adapt and ultimately thrive.
During this morning’s walk and as I approached home, I cried for all of us. I cried for the health care workers (one of my neighbors), the grocery store and pharmacy clerks, the postal carriers, like my Mom, the trash collectors, those nonprofit workers who have lost their jobs, or who are furloughed, the homeless, the domestic abuse victims, those who have contracted and died from this awful virus, all of us who don’t know whether we’ll contract it or not. How will we fare? We all face a somewhat uncertain future right now, and it’s also a future that can be re-imagined.
I entered my home after my 30-minute walk and my husband was in the kitchen just about to begin his work day. It was a relief and good to share my thoughts with him. I now share them with you.
Then, I wiped away my tears, took a deep breath and proceeded upstairs to work. I will spend another day working in this intriguing and complicated field of philanthropy, which has a critical role to play in helping us all get through this crisis. We can do this. What choice do we have if we want the world to be a much better place for those who succeed us?