I want to talk about empathy, but first I want to talk about an Instagram post I read this week from one of my favorite black-owned businesses, Mess in A Bottle, which read “Your order will ship, don’t be a mess.”
A clever play on words, but in the caption, business owner Kalilah Wright goes on to express gratitude for the business and support, but also highlight that some of the unprofessional messages she’s received from disgruntled customers asking for order updates, have not been helping.
Wright was born in Jamaica, moved to Maryland to attend graduate school at Morgan State, and then took a job with Under Armour as an architect for their retail stores. But after Freddie Gray’s death in 2015, she decided she wanted to do something that had more of a social impact. “The city was in an uproar, and this was also happening all over the country and the world. It just made me want to figure out a way to create messages for people to wear and connect to.” (Source: Baltimore Magazine) Mess in A Bottle was started in 2016, after she quit her job to start out on her own.
This post struck me because I’ve been trying to find the right words to explain what’s happening, this new low level of anxiety that the world is operating from, that is spilling into places it ought not be. And I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until I saw this post. Mess in a Bottle is a company created from love, and good things are worth the wait.
There is no denying that coronavirus and various stages of sheltering in place have drastically changed our lifestyles. We’re now working from sofas and kitchen counters, having cats walk across our screens during video calls, and kids running around in the background. Every day has presented challenges, some physical, some mental, and we are all learning to adjust our sails to ride with the wind and waves.
Points North Studio is fortunate in that while we did lose some event-related business, we’ve largely been poised to help our clients with getting important resources to their audience through their website or shifting their sales efforts to strictly online while their brick and mortar shop is closed.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tells us “Don’t panic,” but there has been a low level of panic running through the empty streets and also through our veins. Maybe it’s not coming out in the most dramatic ways, but I see it in some of the rush requests we’ve received masked as normal expectations, in emails that come at all hours of the night, and calls requiring immediate attention. We were never set up to operate like this, and we don’t want to be; balance has always been our center. That aside, we are definitely not set up to work this way during a pandemic. No one is.
I echo Mess in A Bottle, in that we truly appreciate the ongoing support and desire to do business with us. We are so grateful. We love the work that we do, we love our clients and absolutely love making a difference. But, we are not magicians and despite our best efforts we’ve been unsuccessful at bending time. All of our team members are working around abnormal obstacles and stressors to push projects through. Our senior leadership team has been working 10-12 hour workdays since the beginning of the mandate to shelter-in-place. We are doing the best we can with what we have. And we know you are too. That is why we’re asking for patience and empathy.
I’ll be writing a separate post soon about how to breathe and move through this turbulent space that we find ourselves in together. In the meantime, I’m asking that we collectively be mindful of how we treat others and that we check our anxiety and worries at the door before crafting emails and other forms of communication. It’s worth noting that our perception of time has also changed drastically, so also be mindful and respectful of time (your own, and that of others).
Please be kinder in your words and in your actions. We are all trying our best to tread water in a storm we can’t see our way out of. We need each other to hold on and hang in there. There are no superhero heroes. It is in times like this where we find our own ordinary acts of grace are what save us.