As I continue to mourn the loss of a world we once knew, I think of the world our children could now live in and my heart breaks. I am not one to cry. In fact, in 20 years, I would say my husband can probably count on one hand the times he’s seen tears stream down my face. In recent times, he has now added a few more hands to that count, yet no matter how tight he wraps those hands and arms around me, it rarely seems to be enough to make it all okay.
As a writer my mind is spinning with the things I would like to say. There are so many questions to ask, so much to address. I don’t even know where to begin, but I do know that whatever I say must have an impact because time is ticking and with it is going the opportunity for change.
As a small business owner, over the past 2 years I have been asked to pivot, adapt, close, reopen, adjust capacity, downsize, hire, prepare for the summer boom, find staff in an impossible market, lay off when a natural disaster hits, decipher confusing, ever-changing and all too often nonsensical rules, and now we are facing potential closure once again.
We have made a Plan A, Plan B, C, D and E, and we have used every single one of them. I have had to apply for funding, budget, and re-budget, be the police, take care of public health and hardest of all, mental health as I watch the weight of the world cripple the very being of my employees and my community, who to me, are family.
I have done this all while choosing to focus on what we can do, not what we can’t. I have done my very best to support everyone in our community with a smile on my face, regardless of how worried I have been on the inside that we may lose everything that we have spent the last 15 years building, or that our marriage might deteriorate, our family might be divided, or worse.
As a mother I have told my kids that it will all be okay, while not really knowing at times if I believed it myself. In the beginning I followed them around with sanitizer. I was diligent with the rules, we stayed at home, we were privileged enough to buy organic food and vitamins, we got exercise, fresh air, and took extra care of our bodies and minds. I became their teacher, I got to be their full-time playmate and when it was time to mask up, we did. We didn’t know what we were dealing with. So as diligently as I do everything in life, I took care of them. Then as we learned more, I had to spend time undoing some of the fear we had created in them. We spoke about evaluating our risk and what it meant to live in this “new world”. We learned as everyone did, about what we were dealing with, and as a family we sought to educate ourselves and find a healthy balance. We made and continue to make choices that are right for us.
As an outdoor educator for children in our community I teach leadership skills. I believe that a respectful, holistic, and proactive approach creates a foundation for our kids that is inclusive, thoughtful, and safe for their world now and into their future. I believe positive role modeling and teaching independence creates a better tomorrow. I have seen firsthand that it only takes one positive connection with a child, or any human being for that matter, and you can completely change the trajectory of their life. At times this may just mean taking a moment to walk with them, hear them, see them. I take this responsibility seriously and I have built my career and life around this belief. I have watched throughout this pandemic, the mental health and confidence of our youth and community plummet. Once emerging leaders are now scared of the world and unsure of their future. This is something we all must take very seriously.
As a contributing member of society, with a million questions and concerns, I have decided to keep this simple with one request, one question that requires an immediate answer not only from our leaders, but from within ourselves…
What is our Plan B?
It is clear now what Plan A is. Strict mandates at all cost and continued vaccination for as close to 100% of the population as we can get. Even if this means dividing our communities and further deepening the socio-economic issues, we all face. Even if it results in further mental health issues, drug overdoses and suicides. Even at the loss of thousands of small businesses. Even if this means taking away people’s freedoms, their social interactions, their ability to keep themselves physically healthy at a gym and mentally healthy by being part of society. Even if it keeps children from their education. Even if it creates 2 classes of human beings, makes people feel forced into doing something they do not want to do, results in the bullying of children and their parents who are afraid, and forces people to publicly share their private health choices. Even if it completely depletes the overall mental health of a large portion of our communities and divides families, keeps them from sitting at a dinner table together or from hugging each other and caring for each other, or if it keeps us from seeing our loved ones before they die, from holding their hand in the last moments of their life. Even if it turns us into people who do something they said they would never do because it would be unhealthy for our communities. Even if it maybe isn’t the right thing to do.
But look at what is happening. Is Plan A working? Because there are those of us who can’t for our own medical or religious reasons, and those of us who have made up our mind for our own health reasons. There are those of us who took 2, that do not want to take 3, or 4, and the world can’t continue to shut down time and time again because we don’t have another plan or something “might happen” and no matter how many freedoms are taken away or how many times this plan is pushed, some of us don’t want this, and it is our right to say no without punishment, coercion or fear. Through a fair constitutional and democratic process.
So, what is Plan B, and when do we engage it?
Do we wait for a certain number of suicides, overdoses, illnesses, and deaths before we try something else? Do we wait until we have added enough weight to a crippled health care system before we are willing to explore other science, or perhaps old science… demand another way or listen to other opinions, including those of respected and accomplished professionals who are fairly questioning this relentless push of Plan A?
Are we waiting to see how many lawsuits and criminal suits we can pile up in our overwhelmed court systems? Or are we waiting until enough people lose their jobs, or whether this new science that we are so diligently following, will ever really get us out of this at all?
Are we waiting until enough people get mad, until they stand up and push back, just hoping it doesn’t turn desperate or violent before we even consider trying something else?
When do we acknowledge that the solution is outweighing the problem? Are we just going to continue to put all our eggs in one basket, place all our bets that no future health issues will arise from our choices, no new strains on the health care system… and should we not have a plan for that inevitability as well? Or if that plan is there somewhere, should we not all know about it?
Or are we just waiting to see how this impacts our children, our long-term health, our economy and our very being, before we demand a Plan B? Or perhaps we are waiting until there are more homeless people in the streets, there is more fear and division in our communities, more families and friends who stop speaking to each other, more damage to our people or until our spirits are completely broken before we try something else.
Is there a magic number that pushes us to Plan B? And how exactly will that plan address the much-needed healing from all the damage that sticking so unwaveringly to Plan A has caused?
As a small business owner, I have made countless plans to adapt and like the rest of the general population, I have been asked to bear a huge brunt of this pandemic, without a say, or a vote, without balanced information and all too often with a stifled voice out of concern for being unfairly labeled or judged, because it could affect a grant or funding, worried for my business because it is so important to my community and we are only just hanging on. And I worry for the impacts on my family should I dare to speak out and ask questions.
But now I write this as a mother, a neighbor, a concerned citizen, a community, and family member and as a friend. I write this as someone who has worked my whole adult life to assist in the health of others. I have walked with our children and our community, I have heard them, seen them and I know that we can all be that one positive connection that completely changes the trajectory of our lives, our future.
We all have this power. We can all learn to be leaders who demand a Plan B, who demand transparency and who demand open, fair, honest, and equal debate. The time for a respectful, holistic, and proactive approach for a better tomorrow is now, and it is up to us. We the people, undivided, with respect, deserve nothing less.
Lyndie Hill (guest contributor)
CEO of Hoodoo Adventures in Penticton