In a small community room at Clark, you’ll find a mantle with a wooden sign that says “gather” next to three ceramic vases. On a normal day, you’d find Clark neighbors conversing, laughing and sharing stories in this gathering space, but today, the room is empty with the exception of a manila folder propped up by the vases with a small handwritten note attached that says “C19 Together.” This simple reflection is a gift from a Clark resident named Richard. Each day, he places a new handwritten reflection to inspire neighbors to stay strong and get through the pandemic — “for the duration.”
Life During a Pandemic
Richard and his wife of 60 years are enjoying their next chapter of life as independent living residents at Clark. He is a former professor and truly embodies the heart of a teacher even in his retirement. As things began to change around him due to the pandemic, he noticed how it was affecting others.
Richard said, “After the Stay Home. Stay Safe. executive order from Governor Whitmer, I noticed a change in how people seemed to be feeling.” They tried to lift one another’s spirits in the hallways (safely with masks on of course), but Richard wondered if he could do more to help.
An Idea to Inspire Neighbors
A phrase Richard has recently called upon is “for the duration.” The origin of the phrase is from enlistment papers starting in World War II that would change or state enlistment periods to “for the duration of the war.” Knowing the social distancing and other safety measures could last a while, he thought about how to encourage his neighbors to get through this uncertain pandemic together. For the duration.
He also reflected on his time as an army officer when he served in the infantry and had to motivate his troops, as well as his many years as a teacher. What could he share with others?
Richard began writing daily reflections to inspire his neighbors. On March 15 he wrote his first reflection. It was three simple words;
“Faith, Hope, Love.”
He took a manila file folder, punched a hole and placed a paperclip through it. Each day he attaches the slip of paper with the reflection to the manila folder. By offering a single reflection that everyone in the community can focus on, Richard hopes to inspire the community to get through this pandemic together and with purpose.
At the start of the pandemic Richard had no way of knowing how long the shutdown orders and social distancing would last. Despite that, he hasn’t missed a single day.
Words of Advice from the Past and for the Future
Between 9pm and 11pm each night Richard puts the notes out. Most of the notes are a message all by themselves, but sometimes he adds to the thought of the previous day.
Some of Richard’s reflections have included:
- “Teamwork” We are in this together. We can’t be divided.
- “E pluribus unum” It means “out of many, one” in Latin is the motto of the United States and “Tuebor” meaning “I will defend/protect” which is part of the Michigan seal.
- “Smile.” Even under your mask. You look great.
- “We Shall Overcome.” More than ever, we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers — especially in congregate living.
- “Twenty” Wash your hands for twenty seconds.
- “Time to Laugh”
- “Courage Always. Now go wash your hands.”
- “Find enjoyment – who have you written to”
- “What are we learning? To help – younger generations, others.”
These are just a handful of the more than 90 reflections he has shared with his neighbors. They become a discussion subject and a ray of sunshine for the others that live at Clark. Everyone can take something different away as they reflect on the words of that day.
Other words of advice from Richard? “Keep your distance. Wear your mask.”
One of the most momentous events of his life was meeting Eleanor Roosevelt. At that time, she shared these words with him: “Richard, work every day for peace.” These are words he took to heart, and continues to live by, even in the midst of a pandemic.