As we contemplate returning to the office, we need to recognize that things will not be the same. Just as our experience over the last few months has changed the way we work; it has also changed the way we live. Moreover, the experiences and stress of the last several months may have changed us as well.
When we begin the slow process of transitioning back to our respective offices, please know that our colleagues will be dealing with all types of things. For some this has been a welcome opportunity to get to know our families better. For others it has been a tough time filled with loss; loss of employment, relationships, and some of us have lost friends and loved ones.
Some of us will be eager to see our colleagues in-person, others will be concerned and anxious about returning. Still, for others, the compound effect of it all may have left us simply exhausted and on edge.
As for me, and others, the devastating and disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities and the compounding events surrounding the killing of George Floyd at the hands of those sworn to protect him have caused intense feelings of sadness and sorrow, alarm and anger, disgust and disbelief and in some, even despair.
As a black man who has lived my entire life in this country, I am deeply saddened but not surprised. This is all too familiar and something I’ve seen all my life.
I am reminded of a story my father told me about he and his father (born in 1890s) in the deeply segregated south. It was the late 1930s. In Jim Crow south, blacks were second class citizens and had very few, if any, rights that others were bound to respect. My father would witness the humiliation and demeaning treatment inflicted upon his father.
Even as a boy, this angered my father and he finally asked my grandfather why he allowed those people to treat him that way? My grandfather’s response was, I’m trying to keep you alive, grow you up and get you out of here. The things that I have to take, you won’t have to take. And the things you take, your son won’t have to take and the things your son takes, his son won’t have to take and eventually we won’t have to take anything at all.
As I reflect on my father’s experience, I am struck by two distinct realities. The first reality is one of optimism and hope . . . hope for future generations and an optimism born of faith. Faith that one day our country would embrace us as full citizens no matter the color of our skin.
The second reality is that while I share in the optimism and hope, I also know that hope deferred makes the heart sick. And I look toward future generations, I ask the question, when will the heart ache end?
So as you reach out to your colleagues, as you reflect on the last several months and as you look toward the future, let’s be sure to look ahead with the knowledge that the future . . . our future . . . as a company, as people and as a world, is bright. But also know that it will take all of us, together, to ensure that future.
by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?