A Message from Michael Robinson

A Message from Michael Robinson

April 6, 2020
Category: News
Tags: , ,

An African American man holding his younger daughter while smiling in front of trees.

Hello Parents and Guardians,

I’m Michael Robinson, program director at NCCJ. (That’s me to the left, with my daughter / new office-mate.) NCCJ is our region’s oldest human relations organization, best known for our flagship program, ANYTOWN, which has helped shape and raise the awareness of young leaders in the Triad for over 30 years.

Let me start by saying THANK YOU!  Facing an unprecedented, once-in-100-years pandemic, waves of unemployment, and the disruption of every system we have relied on to structure our lives, you’ve done what you always do when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds: adapted, regrouped, and pressed on. Have there been a few bumps and snags? Yes. Do we have all the answers? No, but do we ever? The silos of work, school, and home came crashing together and overnight you became the managers (and in some cases remotely) of self-guided learning being facilitated by hundreds of teachers across the district, at-home professionals, and emotional and social support to family and friends. All of your roles, in all of your worlds, got rolled into one, all at the same time.

That’s a lot, and the truth is, we don’t know how long things will be this way. But, you’ve managed to make it this far, and we continue to see that which has been proven time and again when we are faced with adversity, we come together, the best way we can, to practice compassion and build community. As we continue to adapt to the world as it is, we’d like to share with you a few things that have helped us at NCCJ as we adjust to our recent circumstances:

We’ve accepted that this is new for us and doing new things doesn’t always make us feel good.

During our first team check-in Ivan, NCCJ’s executive director, shared that he’d just listened to the first episode of researcher and storyteller Brenè Brown’s new podcast Unlocking Us, where she shares: “If the definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, then being new at something is the epitome of vulnerability.”

Brown adds that the only way to get through the discomfort of doing something new is to push right through, “If we aren’t growing, we aren’t living.” To embrace the awkward discomfort of what she calls “the suck of new,” she offers a technique called FFT (listen to this episode to learn what FFT stands for.) Brown says when we Name the FFT and acknowledge that we are doing something new we can then:

  1. Normalize it (This is what doing new things feels like.)
  2. Put it into perspective (We’re going to make mistakes, but we will learn along the way)
  3. Reality check our expectations (It’s going to be twice as hard and it’s going to take twice as long)

Brown says, “When we name and own hard things it does not give [the hard things] power, it gives us power.” Embracing that this is new, getting clear on what we can control and what we can’t and knowing it is going to be difficult, has allowed us to embrace the growth that is coming through on the other side.  [Skip ahead to minute 28 to get her take on how she’s using FFT to process the Covid-19 Pandemic. You can share the technique with your kids calling them TFTs (Terrible First Times.)]

We’ve figured out how to structure our days to get work done, stay connected and embrace the fact that schedules may have to be flexible to fit everyone’s unique needs.

We’ve also given each other space to express how we are truly feeling related to Covid-19, including our worries and what sparks joy. Being given the space to process has helped us keep things in perspective, remember that we are human and give each other grace. The Dalai Lama says that it is in times of suffering that we need forgiveness and patience the most. This starts with forgiving and being patient with ourselves.

Our staff representing NCCJ from home

We’ve embraced the time with our loved ones but are learning the importance of being intentional about making time for ourselves.

COVID-19 has interrupted our normal patterns including the times in the day that we would normally have built in time to gather our thoughts or escape, (e.g. during the morning commute, or on the walk down the hall to the meeting.) We’ve found that giving ourselves the flexibility to check in with our loved ones in the same way we might pop into a colleague’s office to chat about a project, allows for us to stay present in the work and take advantage of the moments we wouldn’t normally get to experience at home.

We’re also making time to meditate, cook more, garden and all the other stuff you’re seeing people do on Instagram these days. And it sounds like you are, too! I was having a conversation with one of our ANYTOWN Ambassadors the other day and he said that he believes that after we get through this that our relationships with ourselves and others will be stronger than ever. We agree. This has the potential to be a transformative experience for our families and our community in several ways. We hope that we are stronger and ever more resilient as a result.

María’s world famous French Bread

We’ve acknowledged that there is still a lot that we don’t know right now, but that together we will figure things out.

It’s ok to still be a little out of sorts even after of few weeks of staying and working at home. It’s ok to be worried, it’s ok to be stressed. Embracing these emotions and acknowledging that others may be facing similar if not more dire straits than we are is important to continue to practice and foster the compassion and empathy necessary to continue to sustain us through this time. It is clearer than the ever before that we are in this together.

Now what?

Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing resources to support you and your family as we adjust to the world as it is now. As Guilford County Schools enters into Spring Break, we wanted to set you up with a few things that you might consider doing with your family over the coming week. A Google search will reveal troves of resources from virtual museum tours to college tours that could give you of number of options to keep yourselves busy, but below are a few home-grown options from us to you. We’d love to get your suggestions for ways to engage and build community as we stay safe in our homes:

  • I got this idea from NCCJ board member Mindy Oakley: write down all your favorite movies and have a movie marathon!
    • Film Festivals like SXSW and other indie film festivals are making their catalogs available through several platforms in the coming weeks (brownies and ice cream optional)
    • GroundSpark is offering free streaming of many of their popular youth-focused inclusion programs, including the film Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up. Just use the password “socialdistance” to gain access.
  • Write a list of the songs the make you happy or put a pep in your step and have a lunchtime dance party
  • Find an ocean soundscape online, grab or download a few books, head into the yard and imagine you’re listening to the waves on the beach as you read
  • Each evening record three things that you are grateful for and share them around the dinner table

Stay tuned for updates from us as we work to continue to engage and hold space with our ANYTOWN Ambassadors and adapting and fostering partnerships to engage with young people and adults across our community. We want to hear from you! What do you need from NCCJ in this time, how can we support you as you work to sustain and strengthen relationships and community in the digital space? Please feel free to email me directly with ideas about how we can serve you.

Again, thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do to make this place we call home special. Go for a walk & stay well rested, if you can!