Thursday, April 16

Dear New Westminster,

During the crisis I have tried to be more active on social media and stay connected with people. It has been a useful medium to share information and try to instill hope and a sense of community which is even more important these days. However, the crisis has highlighted one of the short comings of social media as it often projects an unrealistic glossier image of people’s lives. This can be particularly debilitating for those who are not weathering the COVID-19 storm as well as others. It is because of this, that I wanted to spend some time sharing some honest personal stories in the hopes we can normalize and accept the pain many of us our going through right now.

For those that know me well 2020 was already a tough year before the crisis began. A terrible accident in early February left a close family member in hospital for most of the month and ultimately her passing. At the onset of this crisis, our family was still very much grieving. At times, the crisis has helped my family become closer and it has been a needed distraction. At other times, it feels like we are being kicked while we are already down. The reality is we didn’t all start this crisis with a blank slate, for many the crisis has layered new stresses and challenges on top of already difficult situations.

Our lives are now being lived out in very different ways. How we work (or don’t work), socialize and connect with family has been turned upside down. In our home we have three daughters, a dog, and a cat. My wife and I are mainly working from home. My wife has claimed the dining room and me the bedroom. The kids are rotating on the family computer to work with online learning. Although my social media posts might give the impression of a highly organized household full of structure, joy and love, the reality is much more chaotic. Our kids are going stir crazy and they dearly miss their friends. Nothing seems normal anymore.

This has also not been an easy time at work. My job has never been a 9-5 job but that has only been exacerbated by the crisis. Some parts of the job (community meetings and events) have disappeared, but the challenges that arise every day because of the crisis require immediate solutions and decisions. As someone who prides himself at taking the time to make methodical collaborative decisions, this new environment is requiring me to work differently. Knowing that so many people are struggling but not having the tools available to help everyone is also difficult. Managing organizations that are under significant pressure, while still trying to deliver services that people need and expect is also proving to be a daunting task. Like most work places there is a lot more stress and anxiety about the future. We know the difficult decisions we are being faced with are more than just numbers on a spreadsheet, they are about and affect real people.

Although our family is facing its struggles, we know it pales in comparison to how many others are suffering. I hope this honest letter is received the way it was intended and lets us all be aware and accept that not everything is okay. In these difficult times, it is okay to not be at your best, it is okay to cry, it is okay to eat that entire jumbo bag of potato chips, it is okay to stay up late binge watching the “Tiger King”, and it is okay to laugh at silly memes. I can admit I have done all of those things. We don’t need to pretend that things are normal or demonstrate that the crisis is really just a big personal growth opportunity. I know we will find hope and I know our community will come together and become stronger, but we also need to be honest about the difficulties we are facing together.


Jonathan Cote