By Nevin Dulabaum, president of Brethren Benefit Trust
In the 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams,” Doc Graham states, “You know, we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening.”
While that statement is poignant in the movie and is generally correct in everyday life, we obviously understand the magnitude of what is currently happening throughout the world. We all know we are going through an extraordinary time where lives, good health, jobs, community, material wealth, and perhaps even relationships and our personal faith are all being tested and/or threatened. When a vaccine is approved and distributed and COVID-19 is finally eradicated throughout the world, the landscape will be forever changed from that of pre-March 2020.
Will online meetings and working from home be even more common than they were? Learning from home? Shopping online with home delivery? Ordering food to go or to be delivered instead of dining in at a restaurant? Will we ever enter a large gathering again without expecting to see hand sanitizer stations placed everywhere? Will we feel secure being in public without wearing masks? Is six feet of separation among people a new normal? While I don’t profess to know what changes will become normalized, I do believe some will, and that in the future we’ll look back to March 2020 as the moment of significant cultural change.
So what can we do to establish new norms to carry us through the shelter-at-home and social-distancing mandates, while we wait for the “all clear” to sound?
First, don’t forget your faith. The Church of the Brethren is steeped in the belief of the existence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. While I have long avoided talking publicly about my personal spiritual beliefs, this extraordinary time has me wanting to share just a bit of what I believe–that we’ve been given a canvas of life, and we have been given intellect to make decisions, which is our way of “painting” our personal canvas. I believe God is with us, but that we can decide during this time whether to use masks, stay at home, and keep our distance from others. Faith does not mean our prayers are answered the way we want them to be. Rather, it is the knowledge that we are not alone, and that a better place is in store for us beyond this world. Please, if you can afford to do so stay in, stay away from all but your closest family members, and utilize delivery services where you can. I never thought I could afford to have my groceries delivered to my house; now I feel like I can’t afford not to. At the same time, reach out to family and friends and communicate and be social (from a distance). We actually tried having a Zoom meal with a relative who is alone at home; you, too, can be creative using technology to reach across the quarantine void.
Second, as Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is a financial institution and the markets are being heavily affected by the COVID-19 era, I encourage you to stick with your investment plan and to have a conversation with your investment adviser. The markets have always gone up…and down. To become skittish and to exit an investment strategy is to lock in your losses and to perhaps stifle your ability to grow them back. You should adopt a long-term strategy to get you to retirement, and stick with it.
Third, it is ok to grieve the losses that are felt, whether they are the deaths of people we knew and loved, our jobs, our material resources, or even long-planned activities that needed to be cancelled. The losses experienced today are so profound in many ways that grieving is necessary to address the issues and to try to move on emotionally.
Fourth, be grace filled. Everyone is experiencing loss, change, and disappointment. Let’s be supportive of each other at a time when there’s a lot of need all around.
At BBT, staff are working from home during the shelter-in-place directive, trying to support our members and clients with services and information as best we can. We’ve not only addressed making changes so that each of our team members can successfully work from beyond our office space, but we’re also positioning ourselves to be nimble and adaptable with whatever new realities emerge from this crisis.
The bottom line is that BBT was created to serve members and organizations within the Church of the Brethren, and others of like mind, and we will continue to do so faithfully, doggedly, and responsibly.
Blessings to each of you during this difficult time.
— Nevin Dulabaum is president of Brethren Benefit Trust. This is slightly adapted from his reflection first published by BBT.