The latest message from Owen Charters, President & CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (May 8). Full transcript below.
If you watch news coverage of disasters like fire, tornadoes, or floods, you know the extent of the devastation that they wreak. The thing about these disasters is that you can see the devastation: homes lost, buildings destroyed, roads gone. It’s evident that communities hit by these disasters need time to first dig out—to remove the rubble, and then to recover. Once they have taken care of those immediate needs, they need to rebuild.
The impact of coronavirus is also a natural disaster. There are significant impacts, and there is damage and destruction. Unlike other natural disasters, we can’t see the destruction in the same way—there are job losses, there are business that have or are failing. There are norms and practices that will disappear now. There are things we will not get back—moments in time that we anticipated but will not happen: conferences, travel, vacations, weddings, funerals, celebrations, ceremonies. There is damage to mental health, to physical health. There are those suffering, those grieving.
Because the destruction may not be visible, sometimes we forget that we will need to spend time digging out. The digging out will be different. It will be about putting organizations back together. It will be trying to get finances straightened out again. It will be getting out from under a backlog of undone projects, unmet commitments. It will be reassessing where we stand, what’s needed, what we can do.
But one part of recovery is dreaming of the future. Out of destruction comes rebirth. After a forest fire, new plants, new life emerges and changes the landscape. Neighbourhoods destroyed by natural disasters get a chance to rebuild, to recreate something newer, different, better.
It is hard to imagine a new future right now. It is hard because this natural disaster is still unfolding all around us. But we must start to plan for a new future, imagine how things could be. We will need to do this for practical reasons—we need to plan for how we work in a new world, with greater restrictions and cautions around health. We will need to adapt.
And we need to imagine a different future—one we will create. We will need to hold on to that dream, that vision of what we can create after this. These dreams will help us get through dark times, when things seem hopeless. Holding onto these dreams, these hopes—this seems less practical, yet it is what we need mentally. We need to envision how we take what we have experienced, what we have learned, and build something new.
Like Greek mythology, we must imagine the phoenix that will rise from the ashes. We must create stronger Clubs, stronger organizations, be ready to support more children, youth, and families. Eventually, someday soon, we will emerge into the sunlight and be ready to create what is needed now, and what is needed for the future we want.