For a super social and engaged Mayor, I have to say that my first 100 days have been a bit different than expected. Gone for now are daily office hours, in-person meetings with businesses, civic leaders and constituents, and board and commission meetings. No more hugs or handshakes - just gobs of hand sanitizer. I long for the days of face-to-face follow-through. But not withstanding the current challenges, the Council must continue to move forward on topics discussed at the Council Summit and Council Retreat. In coming months, Council has a budget to review and adopt, a Beech Street Extension to celebrate with the hope of new businesses bursting into motion, and a homeless encampment in desperate need of attention.
While some of these activities are on a brief hold because they require interaction that is currently restricted, council members and staff have learned to conduct much city business via Zoom webinars and other technologies that can still virtually connect us. As a community, we are being educated by social media videos and websites on COVID-19 awareness. A village of leaders, including the Cowlitz County Incident Management Team led by Chief Dave LaFave and Captain Robert Huhta, and Longview City Manager Kurt Sacha and the City of Longview Team, have all been outstanding examples throughout this pandemic.
We have been hearing for weeks, “we are all in this together” and “stay the course”, but this COVID-19 response does have us in a bit of a frenzy. Yes, we’re becoming expert hand-washers, mask-wearers, and homeschoolers, and learning what is essential vs. non-essential work; but we are all getting a little stir crazy. Will it ever end?
On a recent walk in my neighborhood I spied a message in a picture window of a home with the life-size letters H-O-P-E surrounded in colored paper chains. The very sight of the word took my breath away. Shortly thereafter I heard birds calling out from the tall tree tops, and I wondered if they, too, were calling out “HOPE” to their bird friends. We are all in this together, as evidenced by the encouraging outreach efforts and responses of hope I see every day in our community.
Seeing others in public spaces wearing their homemade masks to keep themselves and others safe, and hearing of creative ways to communicate while practicing social distancing with others is wonderful to witness. Re-inventing ourselves into temporary, “not-so-social” beings can be exhausting and most of us by now simply need a gigantic hug!
In times of worry or strife, HOPE is the one thing that we all should tenaciously cling to – hope for a brighter tomorrow, a better outlook, or an encouraging solution to the issues that currently beset us. We hang on – some literally for dear life - and we anxiously wait it out, with hope in our hearts and minds that this too shall pass.
Years ago, in the midst of an exhausting fight with Lyme disease, I remember a friend asking me, “What has this experience taught you?” Not quite healed, I grumbled something and silently scoffed at the question. I wasn’t ready. In the years that have followed, I’ve often pondered that question and now use it as a strategic tool when faced with hardship. What have I learned from this experience?
So, what has this experience, this COVID-19, taught us so far as a community? Have we become more cognizant as a people how to safely intermingle? We are certainly learning how easily viruses are transmitted (6’ distance, cover mouth, wash hands). Have we learned to get along with less and/or do without? Have we yearned and ached for loved ones, but cannot visit or embrace them? Have we rediscovered the value of simple (and precious) at-home time with family, or catching up on projects long forgotten? Have we come up with plans A, B and C for our financial and economic futures? To all these, I would say a resounding, YES.
Our experiences, both good and ill, through these singular times will be imprinted in our hearts and minds for years to come. We will learn from these experiences, and they will become the lessons from which we draw for strength and hope for another day. For many of us, these experiences will permanently change the trajectories of our lives.
In the face of these hard times, we can benefit from remembering some simple truths: We can do hard things. We will bounce back. We do have grit. We are able to overcome. There will be changes. Even our smallest efforts are not lost. We have accomplished much good by voluntarily following state, county and city officials’ directions. Our efforts, our will, and our collective hope are stronger and more powerful than this virus that has invaded our lives. As with all hard things, there will be suffering and sacrifice – but we will prevail.
While my first 100 days as Mayor have proven to be challenging, my message today will be the same message I continue to give - HOPE! This setback is temporary, even if it seems to linger – and it may; but whatever hardships or struggles come our way, I know if we move forward with hope it will make us stronger as a people and a community.
Courage and carry on friends!
Please view the latest COVID-19 videos
Economic impacts video: https://youtu.be/PcXFnsW2jG0
Mask video: https://youtu.be/-YS6XCH07uA