The Bounce Forward During a Pandemic: Stories of Pivoting Through Faith

As the world’s operations and life as known to everyone came to a screeching slowdown, over seven billion people got an unexpected courtside view to what seemed to mirror many previously created movies. Grappling with complex new norms that resulted from disrupted social, political, and economic systems, the virus’ wide-ranging and relentless impact quickly became clear.

As the rising mass loss of lives continued, how to navigate the coronavirus risks while creating some semblance of normalcy became one of the more amplified conversations. Without a procedural playbook, some communities and individuals started forging forward and adjusting, in real-time – scripting through pivots and unwavering faith during these unscripted and uncertain times. Below are five stories of individuals who have been pivoting through faith.

Considered an essential worker, Army Veteran Debbie Bair, a clinical pharmacist in her current position for the last eleven years was granted no adjustment time to the rapid unfoldings of the pandemic. Working in Washington, the state that once led the nation in deaths and was considered the hot zone to avoid, her role quickly evolved. Shortly before, her compact life included being a wife, employee, dance group member, and mom with a healthy rotation of talent shows, orchestras, cultural awareness programs, children activities, and a recently attended PowWow and grand opening celebrating her CHamoru culture. Among many things, the abrupt change demanded that she now manage the changed schedules of three children which included homeschooling and adhering to the epicenter’s rapidly evolving guidelines. Finding the balance with her job’s exponentially increased workload, longer hours, very little sleep, and concerns over endangering her children and husband took its toll.

Prior to the pandemic, Debbie worked as a clinical pharmacist providing medication therapy management and education to patients, nurses, and physicians in the outpatient clinical setting. Her evolved role now includes using telehealth to provide chronic care management, modifying treatments for disease control and if needed, initiate effective medications with minimal laboratory monitoring requirements to keep patients home in order to minimize potential risk of exposure to COVID-19. Already pivoting in her professional role, Debbie started doing the same in other areas of her life. As a life learner, she’s taking an online CHamoru history course, started doing yoga and, has resumed hiking, kayaking, and riding sixteen miles roundtrip to work. She also recently started a 21-Day Creating Abundance Challenge with the hopes of creating and sharing more joy in her life. “I want to learn to BE in each moment – become a human BEING, not a human just doing.”

Before the pandemic, Joli Guenther, LCSW, MSSW, was the Assistant Director of an association for homeless and runaway services, a statewide consortium of service providers. Having worked in this service arena for over 20 years, it comes as no surprise that she is compassionate, empathetic, dependable, and flexible with a healthy dose of humor – traits that would serve her well in the months to come. This advocate for improved federal and state responses to the needs of homeless youth and families was also a highly sought after certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and CrossFit L-1 trainer who volunteered for a rescue and recovery unit for her county sheriff’s department. As with many families, when the world slowed down, Joli had to, instantly, navigate through the normalcy that comprised the lives of her two children, husband, and herself while appropriately modifying the operations at an agency responsible for almost 6,000 youth and 25 employees. This included a core team of AmeriCorps workers who had dedicated themselves to providing a year of service in their Wisconsin communities. And, like billions worldwide, things were compounded by fear, anxiety, anger, stress, confusion, helplessness, and more. With a high desire to help community members and businesses impacted by the pandemic, Joli helped with a few fundraisers and switched to teaching her fitness classes virtually.

Part of her pivoting included cleaning and painting an unfinished end of her galley kitchen so that she could film for her virtual yoga classes and striving for balance through regular workouts, meditation, hiking, carving out quality time with her family and, continuously supporting her community. Joli furthered her Volunteer Rescue Diver efforts by pursuing her Dive Master certification through independent study and virtual meetings, enabling her to schedule time for practical skills over the summer. She continued to support her Sheriff’s Department as Training Officer for the Dive Team, coordinating alternate training drills and exercises and completing administrative work that would ensure continuity of operations and skills among a team of 19 volunteer members. She will be employing social distancing while supporting a local Boy Scout troop as they complete their open water certification. During this time, Joli was promoted to executive director and although it came with challenges, she knew to count her blessings and continues to pivot as deemed necessary. In the first few days of her role, she navigated the waters of PPP funding and forgiveness, enabling her to provide a modest increase in living stipend to her agency’s AmeriCorps members to help offset the impact of food instability under the pandemic. Part of her faith-strengthening includes morning meditations where she sets her daily intentions and, shortly, participating in the 21-Day Creating Abundance Challenge.

Chimele George, a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, has ten years of experience in television, film, stage, and hosting. His most recognizable performances, to date, are in House of Cards, The Invasion (Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeffrey Wright), Copycat Killers, and Insecure (HBO). He prides himself on his versatility on diving into each acting role and to date has been in over 20 productions. As Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles, the city where he now resides, started spiking, he became one of almost four million residents who had to prepare for the sweeping restrictions on social movements. A trip to a neighboring city turned into a longer one as Los Angeles became one of the first cities to issue a shelter-in-place order. Filming for several productions and scheduled auditions had to be postponed.

During the pandemic, his pivoting included continual online auditioning for roles in upcoming productions, taking online acting classes, maintaining his workout regime, returning to running, resuming guitar practice and, also learning Arabic, French, Mandarin, and Spanish. He, recently, accomplished his goal of doing three miles in 29 minutes and 30 seconds, beating his previous time by 22 seconds. “This time gave me the chance to improve on aspects of my life that I hadn’t had the time to focus on before.”

Tawanda Blake, an author of three books, journalist and, mother of eight is also considered an essential worker as the senior staff assistant at a doctor’s office. Having lost several family members at a young age, she is very familiar with having to pivot. Her mother died when she was 15, her brother six years later, and within ten years, her maternal grandparents and five aunts and uncles. To compound her heartbreak, in 2013 her sister died which left Tawanda, a mother of four to become the legal guardian of her nephews, rounding out her brood to eight.

After being on her fitness journey for over sixteen months, during the pandemic, three of her children started joining her for daily walks. To accommodate their schedule and motivate them, Tawanda now walks twice a day while still scheduling in cardio, weight training, and recently added INSANITY MAX:30. Additionally, this six-time award recipient for the Charlotte Area Association for Black Journalists has not missed a beat with interviews and thought provoking features of real life people, celebrities, business owners, and entrepreneurs. Quite transparent about her journey, Tawanda continues to use her platform to motivate others to start, restart, or step-up their health & fitness journey. In a recent Facebook post, she said “She stood firmly and faced her fears, her truths, her failures, embarrassments, disdain— she grabbed hold of her resilience, worth, self-love and let go of the shallow spaces in-between. She made the whole earth quake.” Yes, this iCGion knows how to pivot.

“I can neither sabotage nor destruct my chances of receiving an opportunity simply because if it is for me, nothing nor no one can take that away from me.” Anashay Gould This iCGion specializes in all things fashion with experience in print and promotional modeling and in this capacity, has represented several notable brands. She has been featured in The World Natural Hair Show, graced the Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show stage as a hair model for FHI Heat, and hosted for several red carpet events such as Foundation Focus 2015 and the 21st Annual Gospel Choice Awards 2015 just to name a few. Anashay has also walked the runway for Hank Stewart’s White Linen Affair, Dwight Eubanks Icons of Fashion, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Kontrol Magazine: Kontrol the Runway, Korto Momolu: Our Seeds of Tomorrow, and many more. She is well rehearsed on and off the runway and is committed to getting the job done. One of her commitments led to her becoming an author with the writing of a book called The Goddess League last year. Her mission with that is to empower other young tall ladies to embrace their statuesque beauty and blend out!

Anashay has endured a lot of miseries resulting from her being six foot, four inches but with the help of her upbringing, she learned how to raise her own bar and maintain an upbeat, positive attitude through challenging times. Her ability to look at things from different perspectives as well as a practical standpoint served as her saving grace when the pandemic started taking its toll on the world. Despite losing her income source, she quickly focused on adapting to her campus classes going online and resumed singing, exercising, cooking healthier meals, and learning how to play the guitar. Still celebrating earning a 4.0 in her prerequisite nursing degree courses last semester, Anashay is focused on her current courses which include medical terminology, medical assistant, anatomy, psychology, and biology. The woman who took a leap of faith and moved to Boston, MA three years is very excited about her future. Creating small wins remains a goal of hers as she uses her faith as fuel to keep persevering.

These five individuals are members of the iCrushGoals (iCG) Universe, a motivational group. Considered iCGions, individuals are encouraged to be free and shameless with the celebration of their attained goals, regardless of how big or small. A driving message is that the continuous creation of #SmallWins leads to epic wins and what looks like magic. iCGions are also encouraged to sustain the recognition and acceptance of their respective inner strengths while allowing room for grace along their journey. iCGions feed off each other’s energy by sharing inspirational tips, self-enhancements methods, helpful resources, and of course, their created small wins and epic attained goals. To find out more or join, please visit the iCG Universe.

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