What did your January 2020 look like? Big expectations, New Year's resolutions in place? Eager for what lay ahead and what you would make happen that year?
At the risk of stating the obvious, what a strange year it turned out to be. I recall going to a Lunar New Year dinner on January 23 to celebrate with friends of Chinese descent their upcoming New Year, which was January 25. Yet many didn't show up, apparently yielding to what we then perceived were over-blown fears of a new flu strain from China; I mean really, kids starting to mask up in school, even wearing gloves in class! How ridiculous... or so we thought. Then 46 days later, on March 11th, The World Health Organization declares the new flu a Pandemic. Two days later, the Canadian government followed suit. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight (sorry, couldn’t resist!), it is now clear that this new flu, now known just as COVID-19, was really going to impact the daily lives of everyone around the world.
The local community in Vancouver with the lowest infection rate was the one most ethnically Chinese. Taiwan, an island nation of nearly 24 million people has as of December 31, only 7 deaths associated with COVID from the astonishingly low number of just over 800 total reported cases of the virus. They noticed the signs and took appropriate action early. The purpose of this post is not to rehash what those signs were, but a few may be worth noting. On December 30th, 2019, Wuhan doctors officially had communicated that there was a new, more-aggressive pneumonia. Days earlier, Taiwan had already determined that all incoming travellers from the Wuhan area of China had to be monitored. By January 22nd, China banned any domestic travel (surface or air) in or out of Wuhan, isolating approximately 11 million people. Taiwan closed off flights to Wuhan and aggressively accelerated production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while banning exports or hoarding of the same items. The signs were there, but what if our Government (and ordinary folks like us) had paid more attention?
This leads me to the point of this reflection: Are there signs in everyday life that we are missing? Signs to be cautious, or perhaps signs to be ambitious. Signs of changing health (mental or physical) in ourselves or loved ones? When thinking about loved ones such as aging parents, I’ll admit that I first thought about noticeable signs of decline, but we should also be mindful of signs of improvement. Be thankful for those, as they can unintentionally be taken for granted.
How do you look for the signs that are work-related? When it comes to stress and declines in production in the workplace, not all of it is preventable, but there are some ways you can give yourself and those around you a better chance of staying mentally and physically well. The American Institute of Stress published a recent article on how to recognize the signs of (and recover from existing) workplace-related stress.
The bottom line when looking for signs in life is to pay attention, which requires taking time to be still, to be mindful, and to be asking questions about what you observe. It's about actively listening (words and actions) to those who are close to us. It can be as simple as asking your spouse how their day was and listening to their answer, stepping onto a scale or in a larger context, paying attention to quality news sources, including those that don't align well with our own outlook! It doesn't mean blindly following predictions of the famous, or others who have large platforms. Sometimes, some famous people get predictions right, but consider their opinions with your critical thinking skills and don't just gobble them up like dogs devour SierraSil’s Leaps and Bounds treats!
Finally, a word about Martin Luther King day coming up on January 18th. I've long admired the famous preacher from Atlanta. He lived with a purpose to honour his God and his dream that was shaped by his faith.
So this January 18th, no matter your nationality, consider reading his famous "I have a dream" speech. Let's dream about the future that MLK Jr did and do what we can to make that dream a reality. MLK Jr's prayer "Use me God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself," may be worth meditating on or repeating for yourself, depending on your beliefs.
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