By Grace Maselli
Wow: 2020. It wasn’t for the faint of heart. Adults, youth, essential workers, best friends—almost everybody’s lives got shaken by the wrath of COVID, an upside-down experience that turned “normal” living into strange and confined terrain in order to stay safe. Of course, the public health crisis continues and has even worsened in many states in the U.S., with infection rates spiking and hospital beds becoming more scarce.
Some people have turned away from the news. Or seriously limited the intake just to stay sane.
But there are rays of light breaking through. The soon-to-be Biden-Harris administration has a clear stance on safety and the pandemic, “A decisive public health response that ensures the wide availability of free testing; the elimination of all cost barriers to preventive care and treatment for COVID-19;…and the full deployment and operation of necessary supplies, personnel, and facilities,” according to the Biden-Harris camp. President-elect Joe Biden’s gotten his first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
And even if we’re lonelier, the whirl of technology connects many of us, screen to screen. The pandemic of 1918 afforded no such luxury. People have been creative with social distancing. Virtual girls’ night out, Microsoft Teams holiday parties with a professional trivia host and cash prizes. Of course, there’s also getting away from a screen (screen, scream!) and going outside for a stroll, a bike ride (recumbent, too), and kayaking under safe conditions.
Maybe 2021 will bring us to the entryway to that tunnel, where we can see more light at the other end?
Here’s hoping we all have the capacity to appreciate some of those little miracles—like being able to breathe, and hear, and walk. Maybe we can turn the corner this year and build some momentum by looking at some of the things that go right?
From all of us at TBT to all of you, we wish you a slice of joy in the complex holiday season.
By Grace Maselli
The Tampa Bay Timebank took on the subject of grief and loss in its Third Tuesday of the Month member and guest meeting on Tuesday, October 20. Psychotherapy and hospice-trained experts from the TBT leadership team—Nancy Wolf, Christina Bellamy, and Judith Rose—guided about 25 participants in a Zoom meeting to recognize and honor the various faces of grief. The tender examination of loss and its effects included disruption to mourning by Covid-19 and people forced to be separated from loved ones infected or killed by the virus. Grief was discussed in the context of the profoundly unsettling absence through death of someone loved and the painful adaptations necessary before adjustments can be fully integrated.
Giants in the field of grief and loss were invoked: psychiatrist, humanitarian, and hospice pioneer Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her five stages of non-linear grief—Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, and leading death educator and grief counselor, Dr. Alan Wolfelt at The Center for Loss & Life Transition.
Grief can cause a broad range of symptoms both emotional and physical, TBT’s presenters reminded us—from forgetfulness and detachment to everyday life, to fatigue and chest pains.
The discussion, inclusive of a small group Zoom breakout session, extended to the significance of rituals and their power to comfort people in deep emotional pain. Even within the context of Covid, family members, friends, and neighbors can reach out, safely drop food off for grieving families, and be present to another person’s pain with attentive, compassionate listening. Rituals can demonstrate that even in active mourning, we can still be surrounded and cared for by people who remain in our lives. With presenters drawing on Dr. Wolfelt’s work, we understand this can arguably happen (even now using masks and social distancing) through “companioning” with a person who has experienced a loss, being present to another person’s pain—going into the deep wilderness of the soul with another human being—and honoring the spirit, not the intellect.
Grief and its stages, our TBT experts offered, are ultimately a natural and adaptive response to deep loss. The experience is singular and personal and does not follow a prescribed path to reach a given level of adaptation.
The presenters also shared community resources. Following is a partial list of Tampa Bay Area organizations available to assist individuals and families:
- The Life Center of The Suncoast Inc.
6811 N Central Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
- Compassionate Friends
6938 Riverview Dr, Riverview, FL 33578
- Unity North Tampa [First Sunday of the month, 12:30-2:30; donations accepted]
19520 Holly Ln, Lutz, FL 33558
- Soaring Spirits International, Tampa Bay Widowed Persons Group
TBT welcome guest blogger Dr. Robert McGinnis, TBT Leadership Team member, professor, MBA, Ph.D, St. Leo University/St. Petersburg College
By Dr. Robert McGinnis
As we reflect on the tragedy of 9/11 19 years ago, we are reminded how connected all of humanity is. We are also reminded of the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
These immortal words are just as true and relevant today as they were during the Civil Rights Movement 70 years ago. Since that time, we have had many tragedies and challenges. They all have one thing in common: they bring out the best in us. The “Beloved Community” always picks up the gauntlet and rises to challenge. During the pandemic of 2020 we are once again reminded how interdependent we are on so many: teachers, store clerks, first responders, students, caretakers, doctors, nurses, waste disposal workers. So many risking their lives on a daily basis to keep the “Beloved Community” alive.
“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls, as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us.
We are blessed to have many heroic individuals and organizations in the Tampa Bay area. one of which is the Tampa Bay Time Bank.
Many of us have shared Dr. King’s “Dream,” including Dr. Edgar S. Cahn. In 1995, Edgar Cahn founded the Time Dollar Institute—now known as TimeBanks USA—to promote timebanking in the U.S. and around the world. Passionate about social justice, Edgar saw timebanking as a way to restore community and to recognize and reward civic engagement. In the decades that followed, he became its strong, persistent champion, promoting timebanking as a tool for creating a more just, more caring world. Today organized timebanking takes place in more than 30 countries—including China, Russia, and various countries in Africa, Europe, North America, and South America. In the United States, there are about 500 registered time banks, and together they have enrolled more than 37,000 members. ( Stanford Social Innovation Review, SSIR.org)
Universally, there are five core values underlying timebanking:
- Assets – We are all assets. We all have something to give.
- Redefining Work – Some work is beyond price. Work has to be redefined. Creating “the village” that raises healthy children, builds strong families, revitalizes neighborhoods, makes democracy work, advances social justice, and even makes the planet sustainable is valuable work and needs to be rewarded.
- Reciprocity – Helping works better as a two-way street. The question: “How can I help you?” needs to changed so we ask: “How can we help each other build the world we all will live in?”
- Social Networks – We need each other. People joined in shared purpose are stronger than individuals. Helping each other, we reweave communities of support, strength & trust. Community is built upon establishing roots, building trust, and creating networks. Special relationships are built on commitment.
- Respect – Every human being matters. Respect underlies freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and everything we value. Respect supplies the heart and soul of democracy. When respect is denied to anyone, we all are injured. We must respect where people are in the moment, not where we hope they will be at some future point. (timebanks.org)
Tampa Bay Time Bank is an integral part of the “Beloved Community” and has been actively engaged in Tampa Bay for more than 13 years. When the news of the pandemic peaked in mid-March, Delphine Geraci, a Bariatric RN and dozens of other timebankers pulled together as a community of workers and immediately started making face masks. They have distributed more 6,000 masks to individuals and communities in the Tampa Bay Area and beyond. Many are made from “PUL,” or what’s described as a “disposable, breathable, and waterproof fabric, specially treated so that it is not harmful to the skin, both in adults and babies.
My most current timebank project is working with two new member organizational members RAMWI and Radiant Hands, both of which provide support for Tampa Bay’s refuge population. Tampa Bay Time Bank members are scheduled to be tutors for elementary math at teh start of school.
As we reflect and remember those who lost their lives in the many tragedies in our country’s history, let us also be reminded of those whose heroic efforts continue to build and heal our “Beloved Communities.”. Thank someone, anyone, today for their contributions to the quality of life that we enjoy today.
By Grace Maselli
Got uncertainty? Get some glue in the form of social adhesive. No argument that making life big and colorful and filled with art of all kinds requires more creativity in the days of COVID-19. Take member Robert McGinnis’s ingenious approach and arrangement of a mix of paid services and Tampa Bay Timebank resources—our characteristic offers and requests exchange model in action—to celebrate his lovely wife Debbie’s locked-down birthday. Robert hired violinist LaRon Hearst (classic and electric) accompanied by the violinist’s wife Angel’s (angelic!) singing voice. “He played an hour on our deck for the alligator and all of the neighbors on the other side of the pond,” Robert says, adding how groovy it would be, “to get musicians to show up at every members’ house to cheer them up with a song.”
Robert also commissioned some art from brilliant artist/educator/member Qinghong Wei to support the arts and honor the day. This includes a watercolor of a double rainbow taken by Qinghong, auspicious given its powerful symbolism for Robert and Debbie: “On our first real date there was a torrential downpour that broke with a double rainbow,” he says. Way to make it romantic and real and keep it safe, Robert!
For any of you reading, here’s a rolling echo from the TBT Leadership Team—reach out and touch someone by phone. Get on the TBT website and call a fellow member; check in, see how folks are doing. Spread the glue.
Speaking of social stickiness (think: reach out and touch someone in the metaphorical sense and by cell phone), here’s a local Community Resource and Referral Guide that may be of use to readers or someone you know who might benefit.
Assets: Everyone is an asset. We all have something to give.
Redefining Work: We redefine work to value whatever it takes to raise healthy children, build strong families, care for elders, revitalize neighborhoods, make democracy work, advance social justice, and make the planet sustainable.
Reciprocity: Helping works better as a two-way street.
Community: We need each other; networks are stronger than individuals. When people help each other, they reweave communities of support, strength, and trust.
Respect: Every human being matters. Respect for all means accountability to all.
Here here. Everyone matters.
By Grace Maselli
The Tampa Bay Timebank values a good laugh as much as it values community connection. A TBT friend
shared a “NextDoor” social post, part of which is excerpted immediately below. NextDoor self-describes as the digital “neighborhood hub for trusted connections and the exchange of helpful information, goods, and services,” so we have something in common. A woman in a virtual NextDoor community penned this:
Isolation Can Be Tough
“Just seen a news report about the stresses and strains of self-isolation. It was reported that people are going crazy from being in lockdown in their homes. It was strange because I had just been talking about this with the microwave and toaster and all of us agreed that things are getting pretty bad. I didn’t mention anything to the washing machine as she always has to put a different spin on everything, and certainly not to the fridge as he is acting cold and distant again. In the end the iron calmed me down. She said everything will be fine, which surprised me because she’s usually the first one to apply unnecessary pressure and get steamed up over nothing!!!”
By Grace Maselli
Meet Mary. She’s an “Infection Preventionist” RN at Tampa General Hospital. See her mask? This was donated to her and some of her Infection Preventionist friends through the network of Florida Timebanks and its literal grassroots mobilization. Why? To assist healthcare workers not only in our immediate area, but other places. Take New York, for instance. Once again, Ground Zero for a crisis.
As of this writing, anti-coronavirus queen and TBT member Delphine Geraci has sewn 610 masks—with another 45 in line for completion today. Upwards of 75 of the beauties will be sent to a Brooklyn healthcare center described as a “war zone” by a hard-working physician there.
Delphine’s gotten some help from timebank elves across the region, not to mention timebankers’ neighbors, and the faith-based community. Our “runners” are buying and donating elastic bands and washed-and-cut fabric, bringing them to the drop-off table at Delphine’s house (and any other willing sewer who’s ready to come forward with her or his spools of thread!)
Staving Off Airborne Particles
The masks are intended to extend the lifespan of N95s, aka, “respirators and surgical masks (face masks) that are examples of personal protective equipment used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face.” In other words, a calculated barrier against Covid-19. No doubt you’ve heard that N95s are in short supply, with medical staff using them longer than they otherwise would. Supplemental timebank masks are designed to help lengthen the lives not only of N95s, but strengthen their precious and courageous wearers.
Llamas, Mustaches, and “PUL”
The timebank team’s fabric cutters, elastic gatherers, drivers, and sewers are using “The Turban Project” face mask pattern, though there are others among us also using a larger pattern. If you’re in the mood to explore, there’s lots to know and download from this site. Our fabrics are covered in llamas, polka dots, Haight-Ashbury tie dye, Star Wars memorabilia, and mustaches. Delphine, a Bariatric RN, is also making some out of “PUL,” or what’s described as a “disposable, breathable, and waterproof fabric, specially treated so that it is not harmful to the skin, both in adults and babies. PUL has a great variety of utilities and uses, such as the making of disposable masks and other sanitary covers.” According to Delphine, “PUL gives better protection when worn alone. Cotton is best when worn over an existing mask.”
In the meantime, we’ll keep on the move, aiming to help by being part of the larger community effort—part of the whole, as long as we’re able.
It’s true what they say: it takes an (underground) village to grow a heart to 50 times its normal size; this writer has never been more proud to be a member of a community that’s got one big enough to go around.
For donations of breathable cotton fabric and related supplies, contact Rita at 608.335.2382.
By Grace Maselli
Unless you’ve been under a rock, dear reader, then you know about the pandemic—Covid-19—and how it’s changed daily life. For reliable info, members of the Tampa Bay Timebank turn to recommendations from leading national public health institutes, namely the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if you might be feeling “plague dread,” as coined by The Atlantic, you can find some tips here for staying sane.
But remember too, there’s still room for gratitude amidst the bewilderment of life gone topsy-turvy. (Think: “Hey, I may still be able to get food delivered to my door,” “I can take a walk,” [for those of us this may apply to], and “I can listen to a groovy podcast.”) About that last one, check out the Good News Network’s “Inspiring Corona Virus Kindness Updates” to blow some much-needed fresh air up your trousers.
Or for a quick pick-me-up, call a TBT friend or a neighbor to let them know they’re on your mind and in your heart. Because after all, we’re in this together. Even if (to varying degrees) we can’t be in the same room right now. And in the spirit of community and living life one day at a time, here’s to hygienic hand-washing and common sense for all of us.