As we brace ourselves against the Omicron variant that’s surging across the U.S. and around the globe, all-too-familiar restrictions are going back in place. It’s scary and frustrating and annoying, yes. But if infection rates in other countries hold true here, there’s at least some reason to hope that this latest wave will be short-lived and not as dangerous. Especially if you’re fully vaccinated, which includes a booster.
In the meantime, I’m taking some inspiration from a virtual meeting I attended last week, and I hope you will, too. What’s interesting to me is that the meeting would probably have been less inspiring if it had been held in person, but Covid restrictions required the online format.
Here’s the background: Over the summer, I got involved in some local civic action, coordinating a group of concerned community members to push our fair city to create a commission that would protect our urban forest. Too many street trees have been targeted for removal to accommodate development and infrastructure improvements, when other solutions are available to achieve those goals while saving mature trees. This is an issue I’ve cared about for decades, but had not engaged with for some time. Our urgent climate crisis impelled me to get involved again.
We succeeded in our effort and also helped to re-elect a city counselor who was a key player in the mix. As a result of all this, I decided to apply for a volunteer seat on a related advisory committee that will oversee the city’s recently adopted plan to mitigate climate change. I passed the first hurdle when my letter and resume were approved for further consideration.
The next step was an interview with a citizen’s advisory board that clears applicants for all city commissions and committees. In the Before Times, this would have been conducted in-person, in some kind of public hearing space where each of about 20 applicants for various volunteer roles would have been interviewed one at a time, semi-privately. But due to Covid, we were all online, in our little Brady-Bunch-boxes, along with the board members, interviewing in front of everyone.
I was #15 on the agenda and a bit nervous.
As the meeting proceeded, however, it soon became apparent that I was in the company of some really remarkable souls. Each one of us wanted to help the city do better. Each wanted to contribute their expertise and passion to a particular volunteer responsibility.
Three of the candidates had immigrated here years ago—one from Ghana, one from Vietnam, and one from Libya—and all wanted to give back to the city (zoning board, elder affairs commission, board of health) that had taken them in and enabled them to flourish. Three others applying for the same committee as I was had outstanding professional credentials related to environmental engineering and energy conservation. I chose to emphasize my communications skills along with my knowledge of the city’s urban forest.
One young man who was an amateur boxer and had grown up in local youth clubs wanted to help others gain the support and affirmations that had meant so much to him by serving on a commission devoted to inclusion and diversity. Another was an attorney who had recently moved to the city and wanted to help with human rights issues that included, most recently, the use of police body cameras. And that’s just about half the people at the virtual meeting.
If Covid hadn’t forced us to attend online, I never would have heard all those wonderful stories. It made me feel really great to know that these people exist. Best antidote ever for all the dark news these days.
And, yes, I made the cut. Final step is an interview with the City Manager’s staff. Even if I don’t get picked, I know that some caring and talented people will be selected. That’s all that really matters.
Here’s hoping 2022 brings more light to us all. Best wishes for a healthy, uplifting New Year.
Image: Harrison Steen