During my presidency, I have found this monthly reflective practice to be gratifying. This past year in particular, with the pandemic, has been so challenging for me. It has been helpful to give voice to some of the angst, elation, and hope I’ve felt over this roller-coaster year and to have a community who hears my voice.
We have gone through Joe’s well-deserved retirement in an unusual way. Pre-pandemic celebrations would have allowed us to have an evening to gather, tell stories, be joyful, feel sorrow, and let Joe feel our love. We had to improvise, because we still had all those feelings. We held our annual “Do Tell Diner” in Zoom-land and dedicated it to telling “Joe stories.” It was a very moving morning; it’s been surprising to see how well Zoom can allow us to share.
We’ll take Zoom into our future
Speaking of Zoom, who knew that within a short period of time, many of us would have a new verb, “Zooming,” that would open a world of connection. It can be frustrating to try to wring every nuance of body language and tone of voice in a meeting or therapy session using it. Until we changed our Internet provider, it was excruciating to be dropped or to be told that I was breaking up and couldn’t be understood. And don’t get me started about my Chromebook! Zoom has its shortcomings. Yet, I have found it invaluable during this pandemic. We could connect, listen to each other, come to agreements about issues, and I eventually developed a method to provide my speech therapy using it. And as we move forward, and don’t need to rely on it, it has developed into a resource to allow those who are far away to participate. It will be interesting to see how our hybrid platforms will develop.
I have found over this past year that I craved being in nature. When we were huddled in our homes at the beginning of the pandemic, I found real solace in taking walks by the Hackensack River and just sitting in my backyard feeling the sun, looking at my beautiful craggy pin oak tree, and watching the antics of the squirrels. On weekends this fall, I needed to get out and we explored state parks, some of which we had never been to. Cheesequake State Park! How many times had we passed that sign on the Garden State Parkway, but never entered? We went there and discovered some great trails, in and out of bogs and hills. We returned to the delightful Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge; there weren’t many birds migrating but the water snakes were just beginning to make their way out of hibernation and sunning themselves on branches. We recently visited Jockey Hollow, part of the Morristown National Historical Park. It was brilliantly green, as the leaves had just burst from the trees. These visits absolutely helped to sustain me, give me energy, and calm me. We will be returning to these gems for many years.
You are my family
And so we come to the end of my tenure as your president. I’d like to repeat my message from the Spring Membership Meeting: I want to thank you, my Ethical community, for helping me through this extremely challenging period of our lives. You are my family that I choose and I feel very proud that I have been given this opportunity to represent us for the last four years.
Susan Lesh is president of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County.