Pivoting in the Pandemic: Six Months and Beyond!

by Rev. David Wolf, ED

You may know that, in several languages, the word for “crisis” is the same word for “opportunity”.  I find this to be a helpful reminder in this pandemic period because, for all the challenges we are facing – in both Samaritan Ministry and the world at large – I continue to see this as a time RICH in opportunity, if we would only look.  Yes, there is tragedy, challenge and hardship – but there also is generosity, new thoughts and breakthroughs in this time. 

Dear Friends, Partners and Staff of Samaritan Ministry:  You know these adaptations – or “pandemic pivots” – as I like to call them.  You’ve experienced them or you’ve read about them as we have shared them through weekly blasts since mid-March (when the Pandemic arrived and our Next Step Breakfast turned into a virtual experience!)  From virtual STRIVE training via Microsoft Teams, to SWOT outreach on our porches of our main offices, to the fresh food giveaway in Anacostia and, more recently, digital literacy training in partnership with Skyland Workforce Center – we’re pivoting to engage participants where they are, coaching them to do what they CAN do when circumstances seem to only point to what they can’t do.        

That’s the last 6 months . . . what about the next 6 months, leading into 2021?!  I don’t have a crystal ball, but these are the possibilities I see for our work and our mission:  Immediately, but not quite yet, we are launching a conversation among approximately a dozen Staff, Board and Council leaders, volunteers – led by a Facilitator – called the Racial Equity & Justice Roundtable, “Roundtable” for short.  It’s looking like that conversation will start up in October at this point, and a rich and challenging conversation I believe it will be.  Rich, because most of the folks on it, while all passionately engaged in our mission, haven’t directly engaged with one another until recently.  That conjures up the possibility of conversation, learning and enlightenment that would not otherwise be possible.  And I believe it will be a challenging conversation because it will challenge some of us to share more than we’re used to doing – and some of us to listen more than we’re used to doing, such as me!  It could be a liability of my role, but it will be challenging for me in that way, I know.  But it will be challenging for everyone as it is a very sensitive but important conversation to have, no doubt one of the most important conversations SMGW has had over the years.             

Another significant shift that is coming soon is the modified re-opening of our offices, beginning with the NOVA–Arlington office which will likely reopen in early October as a pilot, with other offices to follow soon.  We have been earnestly and diligently preparing for this return since late spring.  We have adapted well in the absence of not opening our buildings up to participants but, at the same time, our participants miss and need that 1-1 contact beyond the phone and the occasional SWOT visit to get mail, PPE, and other in-kind stuff – that many of you have so graciously given us through the “Empower our Neighbors in Need” campaign that begin at the beginning of the summer.    

Last but not least, we are having a VIRTUAL Gala on November 14.  I must confess, I would have never supported launching such a thing but for the Pandemic, and now I am totally sold!  We’ve got two great Gala Chairs in Michele Lewis-Muzatti (Partner Rep from St. Stephen & the Incarnation Episcopal Church and Casework Associate, SE-Anacostia office) and Jeff Hale (SMGW Development Director).  While they share more in detail later in this issue of In Step, I can’t help but extol the potencia – a Spanish word that means both power and potential – of being able to reach over 3,000 of SMGW’s supporters from around the country if not the world (vs. a max of 300 in person).  In addition to that “people power” aspect I am excited about our awardees for the evening – for Outstanding Achievement, participant Antoinette Green . . . for the Compassionate Service, volunteer Nannie Adair . . . and for the Outstanding Partnership, St. Alban’s, Annandale!  We, like you, are facing all sorts of challenges small and large – but let’s not forget the opportunities, small and large, that are right in front of us, even and maybe especially now!