ISN'T THAT SPECIAL? DAY 4 OF MY JOURNEY WITH THE CORONAVIRUS

This was a post I began writing under very different circumstances but I find the meaning still holds true. My idea then was to write about how this virus has us looking at different aspects of our lives with a more grateful perspective. Then I was informed that I, indeed, had the virus. I used a tool I use with most challenging situations that occur in my life – I asked myself two very important questions.

1. How can I use this? and 2. What is good about this?

You may think that being someone who has several high risk symptoms (asthma and a bad heart) that it was difficult for me to find something good about this virus. Certainly, nothing is good about having one’s health compromised. Right away that was one good thing. It gave me a whole new appreciation for my health and how important it is that I do my best to take care of myself. Making the 5 days a week spent at the gym worthwhile. It will give me something to keep in the back of my mind as motivation when I return.

The next question was how could I use this. Without a second thought I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to share my journey and hopefully help keep people calm while showing them a real person behind the virus. If, by sharing my struggle I can help bring peace and answer questions for many others it will be worth suffering through the days of feeling like I can’t breath, coughing, fevers, getting tired just walking from the kitchen to the living room and being so dizzy I feel like Captain Jack Sparrow without the rum. This may all sound a bit frightening but I am making it through. What is helping is all the well-wishes I am recieving from the community and even complete strangers. This is but one of the many joys this virus has brought to my life.

I always enjoy meeting friends for coffee at great local places like Urban Joe’s. If you have never had that pleasure let me encourage you to do so as soon as we get through this. Breakfast at West Allis Cheese and Sausage? Very hard to beat. These places are run by great local people in my community such as Curtis and Mark respectively. Although I always enjoy them, I will cherish such experiences far greater the next time I have that chance.

Of course there is this wonderful lady. My beautiful Margie. I am grateful she has not displayed many symptoms. I feel bad because of me she has to be quarantined as well. If I have to be stuck at home for two weeks I could not pick a nuttier, funnier, sweater and more wonderful person to be stuck with. Although the social distancing has been a nightmare for two people who love each other as much as we do, we have been finding ways to pass the time. Like, for example, arguing whose beard has grown more in this period. I am kind of jealous of hers, but don’t tell her that. She is an amazing cook and I have never had so many good meals! Even though we can’t be as close as we like, seeing her face lighting up the next room still puts a smile on mine.

As the days tick on by I watch numbers for positive cases continue to climb. This makes me think of two very important things. First, we must continue to work hard at practicing physical distancing. Yes, I did say physical distancing. Just because we have to be geographically apart, does not me we have to lose our sense of community. I have met many great neighbors by sharing my journey than I knew before. I have found new ways to bond with and love my lady than I knew before. Now more than ever we need to use the technological tools we have at our disposal to lift each others spirits. Local community pages, like the one we have for my city of West Allis, can be a place to gather virtually and encourage one another. We can use Facetime to connect with friends and family. Even take the time we have to call our elderly relatives to not only check on them, but let them know we love them.

This crisis has brought together many who otherwise stand on opposite sides. I hope we can continue this sense of unity once we have overcame this virus. It has challenged our sense of normal but caused us to appreciate the mundane. It may have kept us away from those we care about but has us missing and loving them so much more. There are many things about this virus that are frightening and terrible, but let us dig out what blessings we can discover to keep the light of hope burning in these dark times.

VULNERABLE = STRONG

I am always interested in highlighting some of the great people in the city of West Allis Wisconsin, where I live. The gentleman on the left is Curtis. Together with his wife Danie, they run the local coffee shop/café called Urban Joe’s. From the first moment I met both of these amazing people one thing became apparent – they get it. What I mean by that is that they truly understand what is important not only in business, but in life. When you dine or just enjoy an amazing coffee or cocktail at Urban Joe’s you will be treated to more than just great food and beverages. You will be treated to some of the best customer service in the city. This is not by accident. Curtis and his wife understand the value of a customer and of a person.

It is the second part of that last statement, knowing the value of a person, that I would like to expand on today. After just a few visits to Urban Joe’s it became apparent to me that Curtis also understood the importance of introspection and quality conversation. He is one of the people who are not only easy to talk to, but really listens and gives thought to what you are saying. Between the two of us there is never a shortage of topics. Through the years we have discussed everything from our visits to the gym, my writting and most recently my interesting adventures in purchasing a new vehicle.

It was during the discussion about my vehicle purchasing that Curtis brought up some poignant matters I would like to share with you. As he offered his outrage with some of the customer service I had experienced in my quest for a new form of transportation, he mentioned the struggles he faced while looking to hire a new member of their staff. We discussed how difficult it is to find individuals who have a sense of ownership over the job they do. Some of the challenges were making your job a priorty, realizing the workplace is not a platform to express one’s political or social beliefs, to the ability to interact and value the customer not only as a source of revenue but as a person. Something he and his wife are not only good at, but take pride instilling in their employees.

It is important to note that while I was enjoying this coversation with Curtis, we were also joined by my mother. We all came to the conclusion that there may not be enough importance placed on physical human interaction. A great deal of our social interaction comes in the form of social media and other digital platforms. Sadly, this can often be a place where manners and common courtesy are sacrificed in the name of social stature or even convincing someone your political opinion is the correct one. Curtis lamented the fact there were not more people who met ‘over a cup of coffee’. Not only would this be good for business but it would strengthen our human connection.

Why is a strong human connection so important? It is so important it can be a matter of life and death. When we form strong bonds it allows the opportunity to be vulnerable. On social media, and now often in the real world, people are afraid to ask for help. It would appear we are more worried about appearances than what is healthy for us. Without fostering deep personal relationships we can be left feeling things like hopeless, alone and depressed. We fear that asking for help can make us appear weak. The opposite is actually true. Being able to admit a situation, or sometimes life in general, has gotten the better of us takes a great deal more strength than pretending everything is ok. We can look to many people such as Robin Williams and Kate Spade who seemed to have it all but lacked the ability or resources to ask for help.

It is for these and many other important reasons that we should “Put down the phone and pick up a coffee cup.” as Curtis mentioned. Developing deep personal relationships can help us notice when something might not seem right with someone closest to us. Allowing people to share their emotions, fears and concerns over a lunch or a nice cup of coffee may be life-saving. It what can often be a digital and pharmaceutical world, we must remember the importance of developing and maintaining close personal relationships. It will benefit us. It will benefit the lives of those we love and care about.

I want to thank Curtis for this great reminder and the great conversation we shared. I want to thank the entire Urban Joe’s staff for being an example of what caring and wonderful people are like. If you need a reminder of what it takes to develop great relationships, you want to enjoy some great conversation filled with wit and wisdom or you just want a great cup of coffee, you owe it to yourself to stop in to Urban Joe’s today and ask for Curtis or Danie.

WHY EVERY MAYOR SHOULD BE LIKE MINE.


I live in the small city (pop. 60,000) of West Allis, Wisconsin. In this town we have a mayor by the name of Dan Devine. He is the man standing who is ironically facing away from the camera. Those of you who follow this blog with regularity may recall mention of him this past July in a post titled Secret to a Healthy Community. In which the mayor led a neighborhood walk to encourage the community to engage in a healthier lifestyle. To me it was a great example of a person who leads by example.
The picture above is from an event I attended this morning called ‘Coffee with the mayor’. The premise is a simple one, the mayor chooses a local business and meets informally with anyone who shows up. Not only does this offer a unique chance to connect with the community for those who may be too intimidated to attend meetings at city hall, but also brings a lot of business to a local establishment. In this case the venue was Urban Joe Café and Bar. Although their questionable decision to have minimum staff on such a busy morning, the young lady who was working named Tina, did a marvelous job keeping everyone happy.
Through the course of this gathering, the mayor informed us on the status of ongoing projects as well as new developments. As you can imagine the people attending ranged in age from young to old. They also ranged from being cheerful and excited to jaded and generally full of complaints. What impressed me most was that Mayor Devine not only subjected himself to some conversation that bordered on unpleasant, but responded to everyone in a cheerful and encouraging fashion.
When the scheduled hour was up the mayor still gave time for those in attendance. He was also joined by an alderman and the fire chief.

The reason for me sharing the story of this gathering is to show what is possible when leaders genuinely care for the people and seek to engage them from many different angles. We have a city website, newsletter and formal meetings of course, but this informal gathering really gave the citizens a chance to feel included in what is happening in their city. Not to mention our good friends at Urban Joe Café & Bar were introduced to several more customers.
It is my sincere hope that leaders in other communities take this example and bring it to their cities and towns as well. In addition, I hope citizens take advantage of such opportunities to have their voices heard and become more engaged in the community. I find myself feeling very grateful that I live in a city with leaders who care and are willing to work to make a difference.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE OTHER POST ABOUT THE MAYOR