by Dan Spoone
If you are reading this message, congratulations, you survived the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a wonderful thing. It feels like we all gave out a big sigh of relief and a huge thanks for our blessings. Yet, the sense of euphoria has been short-lived. We are all feeling a loss of control with our daily lives. So much has changed!
Transportation seems more difficult. There is a shortage of drivers, and surge pricing is now the norm. We’re not sure about giving up our masks, but we are tired of wearing the smelly things in the hot weather. We survived the pandemic, but I’ve already caught a stomach virus and my sister has her first cold in 18 months. People’s jobs are gone and they’re not coming back.
We have more questions than answers. What will the new office environment of 2022 look like? Several friends of mine have already been told their jobs are now 100% remote. I went to my local bank in my shopping center last week and we were the only ones in the building. How much longer before this branch closes? I heard on CNBC that over 75% of all banking transactions are now being done online. This was only 25% 18 months ago, before the pandemic. Our local Tex-Mex restaurant is now doing 65% of their business through Uber Eats, DoorDash and takeout. Will they still need the same amount of eat-in space in the restaurant?
We have all learned how to meet and socialize on Zoom. Will we now have second thoughts before we get on a plane for a two-hour flight each way for a four-hour meeting? We are evaluating our financial situation. Is the chase for that extra dollar worth the impact on the quality of life with your family? What is the right work/life balance? What is really important to each of us?
This uncertainty is leading to anxiety, frustration and sometimes anger. We saw it on our recent flight home from Las Vegas. Everyone seemed on edge. We landed in Orlando at 12:30 a.m., just past midnight. There were six passengers needing assistance and only one agent to provide service. Leslie and I had chatted with Justin, the flight attendant, during the flight. He was based in Orlando, and this was the last leg of his trip. Everyone was getting upset after a long day of traveling, and the agent was struggling to deal with the situation. Justin, sensing the frustration level, offered to assist us to baggage claim. Of course, Leslie and I were very appreciative of his help. As we headed down to baggage claim, we asked him how things were going with Southwest Airlines. The flight was completely full, and people seemed restless. Justin said, “I’ve never seen anything like it over my 20 plus years working for Southwest.” He is the flight crew lead and is very worried about the safety of his team. “I’ve had to remove three different passengers from the plane this month,” he added. “Everyone is so angry. Southwest just decided to not serve any alcohol on their flights for at least the next 90 days until things calm down. What happened to kindness?”
This conversation made me think back to an incident that happened to me in college. My buddies and I were attending a Saturday afternoon baseball game between Vanderbilt and the Florida Gators. It was a nice spring afternoon in Gainesville, Fla. We were doing what college students do at a baseball game. We were giving the Vanderbilt coach the business. We were ragging on his appearance, making fun of his uniform and the performance of his team. This went on for several innings. We were having lots of fun at his expense. There was a woman sitting in the row in front of us cheering on the Commodores. Her young daughter was sitting next to her and cheering alongside her mother. The young girl started to cry, and I noticed her mom trying to comfort her.
The girl looked into her mom’s eyes and asked the question I will remember for the rest of my life. “Mommy, why do those men behind us hate Daddy so much?” Wow, did I feel like a complete jerk!
It was 45 years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Coaches are people, too. They have families that love them. This man was bringing his wife and daughter down to Florida for a nice spring vacation and his daughter was being traumatized in the bleachers by me and my friends. My words had hurt this innocent girl enjoying a spring afternoon with her family.
Kindness! It’s the least we can do for each other during these difficult times. Remember, our ACB staff, leaders and members are all trying to do their very best for this organization. They have families, children, parents and friends. We will not be perfect. We will make mistakes. We will try our best to improve the lives of our blind and low vision community. We have all been through a very difficult 18 months. We are all dealing with lots of change, and change is not easy.
We are all very passionate about ACB and we all care very deeply. Please, let’s all take a minute to remember to be kind. We have done an outstanding job growing ACB’s stature. We have had two successful virtual conventions, established a social community, launched the ACB Media Network, created an active advisory board and developed a set of core values. We are embracing intentional objectives to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. We have established “Traction,” an operating methodology to organize our work under nine key functional programs. You should be very proud of these accomplishments. Together, we can continue to make a difference in the lives of our members and friends. Thank you for all of your efforts. Please remember, there is a young daughter or granddaughter listening to our words. Let’s teach her kindness. It is a lesson I will never forget.