I wondered what interesting writing prompt I can pick for the last week of 2020 for the kids at the Young Executives Club. That’s when it hit me that it is end of unusual year. Ironically, it made me pause and think about what I am grateful for.
As I dwell on that thought, my mind starts to race. I never imagined that a good internet connection would make such a difference. It not just helped me connect with friends and family during series of lockdowns and ofcourse sometimes even shopping for essentials, it enabled me to bring together children in our community for online reading sessions on Zoom every day. When we began, we had no clue for how long we would do this. We learnt to take one day at time and before we knew it we are at it every day for over two and half months! It was something to look forward to.
Before this year took an unusual turn, I was writing stories for children, creating personalized story books for children to give them the joy of seeing themselves in a story created specially for them. My life’s mission pretty much was to enable children to read for pleasure. God knows how many times the motto — enabling children to read for pleasure would have surfaced in what I wrote, in my conversations with people who would give me a ear, newspapers who agreed to print my story. Being a voracious reader myself, seeing children not taking to books, just felt bad. It felt like they were missing out on a steady friendship that lasts a lifetime.
As 2020 pandemic became a reality, I worried about having these personalised books printed. I worried about safety procedures at the printers and the thought that if there is a lacuna somewhere, will the virus survive on books for long? I read a lot of research on the subject back then, when news poured in about disinfecting surfaces and different articles stating different facts about how long the virus can survive on paper. I knew I simply had to stop. I turned down orders. It was difficult, but it just felt like it was the right thing to do.
Connecting the dots
The reading sessions at the community took forward a small initiative that I had already begun in the society. I was trying to create a book club where children could pick any book they liked and we would discuss it together. While we figured out how to make interesting for everyone, the online reading sessions took over. We met, read, discussed, exchanged jokes, laughed together.
Fast forward, after lockdown, many joined the informal book club- The Young Readers’ Club that had by then gone online too. The group sizes grew. That was the 8–11 age group. The 12–14 age group wanted something too. For them, I designed a different course. We decided to meet to speak, participate in group discussions, do some solid team work, breakout rooms on Zoom turned out to be super efficient for this purpose. We wrote sometimes during the session and to develop a system for ourselves, writing allocations as they chose to call it, were sent out every week. These were basically writing prompts to inspire them to simply write away.
Students joined, some left. When they left, I wondered if there was anything I could do to make them happier. But, always the reason they gave was too much on screen time and we will get back. Word began to spread. Being online, location did not matter. Children from different parts of the country began to join. They made me realize that this generation is so bold, so comfortable with technology, so much so they taught me a lot and always helped if someone ran into a technological problem connecting. A huge thank you to the parents who encouraged me and gave me an opportunity to make a a difference.
I feel grateful to be able to experience the joy when children call to find out why we are having a holiday break this week. The seniors would not take the week off either. So, we kind of settled in the middle. One meeting instead of zero this week. What are we going to do on New Year any way they asked. But, I know this new year is going to be more important to stay home with family and connect with friends, wishing each other a better year. We need that time and space to reflect.
My list seems to be growing
I am grateful for meeting fabulous women who took our workouts online and made them so much fun. I don’t drag myself out of bed for early morning workouts these days. I wake up looking forward to the alarm to go off.
I did not know that I love looking at birds and the calm outside. I managed to get time to do that while trying to get destressed during lockdown. The morning news brings forth the many wonderful people fighting in frontlines to contain this pandemic. Our doctor being available all the time for advice.
I am not the one who takes things for granted. But this year taught me that I mustn’t ever take things for granted. Count your blessings is indeed an axiom that needs to be followed to the tee. Hoping that keeps us in good stead in the year 2021 and enables us to share more love and joy.