Arthur Hanchett's Words of Wisdom

Shared in the May 18, 2020 NAP Weekly Newsletter

Contributed by Arthur Hanchett, Dartmouth Procurement Office and Abenaki Community Leader in the Upper Valley area

Today, I look over these woods. The trees are forming their buds and soon the pea green look of new will turn to the lush dark green of Summer growth. We must grow, understand and embrace this bit of time.

Earlier this week my nephew "Sally" (nickname) picked up a package at the mailboxes and brought it up the road to the house. He is the same basic age as you and he made an interesting comment, "I wish I lived back in the 1800's." and I listened. He was referencing COVID-19. As he talked, I remembered an Athabaskan elder and my novice request to him one day to tell me about good old days of his youth. He had been singing with a hand drum but he stopped.
The lunch we shared of Clementine, crackers and hard cheese was between us, along with my knife, an oil cloth and tin.

"Yes, the good old days." His eyes seemed to focus on a cloud way off. "Are you talking about times we cried ourselves to sleep of hunger? Moans, whimpers and silent years disease waved through the village? Or smell of death as we carried family bodies?" The elder paused, then said, "Today is a good day".  Then he sang again.

I told my nephew the Athabaskan elder's story, but he seemed not to listen. I spoke to alôgomômek of starvation, settlers/militarily oppression, disease, infections, school. We spoke of history. He said, "It sounds like you know the bad in all of these times."  I looked past him to the woods, "Today is a good day."

Soon after the conversation with Sally, I read an article titled "Words of Wisdom for Leaders Battling the COVID-19 Pandemic" by Vala Afshar. The article talks about the work of Angela Blanchard and I was intrigued by her wisdom from disasters:

'The human spirit is not extinguishable'

  • No one is coming. We must move at the speed of need. Don't wait. Work. 

  • You may not be at fault, but you're responsible. This disaster chose us. We must own it.

  • You can't build on broken. Pay attention to the strength, skills, and aspirations of those around you. Build on those.

  • Do what you can with what you have, where you are. Right now.

  • There is nothing more powerful than a family, company, community in tough with its own aspirations and principles. Revisit the principles that will guide your decision making as you move through this unprecedented period. 

  • Allow everything that is not destructive. Especially art, music, and dance. Even in disaster, people need joy.

  • Isolation is a breeding ground for rage and despair. We may be physically distant, but we must remain spiritually, emotionally, socially connected. Connect today.

  • At every milestone, there will be gratitude and grief in equal measure. Even as we recover, we will also see what has been lost. Allow gratitude and grief to reside in your heart together. 

  • Practice loving detachment. Others may not behave as would want. We learn not to react to panic and fear, even as we manage our own. 

  • There is enough to go around. Act as if it's true. 

  • When you come to the fork in the road, between resignation and acceptance, take the path of acceptance. No whining. 

  • People can survive individually, but they thrive collectively. Place your faith beyond survival. 

  • Leaders practice "When I know, you know it." People can handle the truth. We unravel when we are forced to play detective in a disaster. If you want people to follow you, you don't have to be certain, but you must be transparent.

As leaders, I encourage you to read the article and there is a also a hint to A Brief Essay on Time by Angela Blanchard which I found a good read.