One Year with CHEER
A year ago I found myself in the CHEER office for the first and, as a result of the pandemic, only time thus far. I had filled out an application online to volunteer. I was in the office for a meeting. This was essentially an interview.
Bruce Baker (CHEER’s Executive Director), Ray Nosbaum (now CHEER’s Operations Coordinator) and former CHEER staffer Lisa Middleton were in attendance. We had a pleasant, thoughtful conversation and at the end I was told that we could be in touch regarding specifics. I had made the cut.
For the past year, I’ve focused on writing and editing, mostly pertaining to the CHEER blog. It has been rewarding, though I’m sure I could have done more. Also, I had looked forward to meeting a variety of people through CHEER’s work and that hasn’t really happened as a result of the pandemic.
Anyway, one year in, now seems like an appropriate time to look back, reflect and assess. I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute and to be part of something bigger than any one person. I’ve been humbled too.
I’ve been humbled because I see how much everyone else is doing at CHEER. I’m talking about core staffers, volunteers and other people in CHEER’s network. I’ll read through reports about what CHEER’s been up to and am consistently impressed by all that’s been done. People are on the frontlines, working hard during a pandemic and most of them are doing it for free.
These are some of society’s quiet heroes. You’re not going to read about them in the Washington Post or the New York Times, although that doesn’t mean that their work is any less important than activists or community organizers whose names grace those pages. That’s all part of CHEER’s very thoughtful long game; you can read more about that long game here.
For me too, the pandemic has further emphasized CHEER’s unique and essential role in the Takoma Park and Long Branch communities. It’s obvious that there are numerous aspects of society that have not been working well for quite some time.
There’s racism, of course. There are the massive socioeconomic disparities across the country, including in Takoma Park. There’s the issue of food and food systems and things not working all that well there either. And the way we think about frontline workers, including nurses and grocery store workers. These are individuals consistently making an enormous contribution to society and yet these jobs are not always held in the highest regard, and don’t include proper compensation.
I’ve been thinking a lot of all of this stuff in recent times.
I’ll close out this post by focusing on a couple of the positives: gratitude and hope. I’m grateful for quite a bit – too much to cover in this short article – and that includes getting to be part of CHEER. Now on to hope: COVID-19 will eventually fade. Sure, it will have left massive destruction in its wake. Nevertheless, we’ve also witnessed our community come together, and there are a lot more organizations and individuals than just CHEER and its affiliates who have contributed.
When things get dark, that’s when you really start to learn about yourself, others and your community. When things get dark, you find out what you’re really made of. When things get dark, the superficial stuff takes a backseat. Now’s a time when priorities are both reaffirmed and reassessed.
2021 is poised to be a big year for CHEER and that includes this blog.
Please watch this space.