Earlier this week, someone thoughtfully asked me how I am doing and how I am coping.  Quite honestly, I am not sure I am doing or coping better than anyone else but I am trying my best to adapt and stay positive.  So far, I am doing fine and I really hope you are too.

With respect to coping, I have always relied heavily on music as a source of solace and inspiration.   I cannot play a note but I love to listen.  I find music gives every life experience, good and bad, a little lift.   Music offers me escape, distraction and, often, instruction.

In 1974, Bob Dylan recorded “Shelter from the Storm”, a song whose title alone has it climbing the chart in my home and elsewhere.  I have never been the biggest Dylan fan nor do I profess to understand what really goes on in his strange and beautiful mind but I believe there is something for everyone in the genius of his poetry.

“I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail

Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail

Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn

Come in, she said

I’ll give ya shelter from the storm”

Aside from being a great tune, the song is a regretful rumination about a past relationship.  There are even some biblical references and allusions that seem especially appropriate for those of us celebrating Easter this weekend.   For me, Dylan is speaking broadly and optimistically about the decency, trust, and generosity that sustain humanity in the face of hardship and uncertainty.

These thoughts are coming in handy during this pandemic crisis.  For each worry and ill-feeling that I encounter in myself or others, I am coping by finding some shelter or trying to offer some:

I worry for the health of my family, friends and colleagues and about our ability to arrest the outbreak.  I seek shelter in my knowledge that so many around me and in our company are doing their part to stay apart and stay safe.  I offer shelter by ensuring we are carefully considering, adapting and responding to the pandemic health threat every day.  We experienced one new case of COVID-19 infection in the past week and that individual is recovering well.   The person who was the first B&M infection is now in good health and has returned to work.

I miss the things that are temporarily unavailable to me.  I seek shelter by taking advantage of what is available whether it is working the phone outside on a sunny day or reliving the Blue Jays’ glory years.  I offer shelter by celebrating the little victories such as an unparalleled 30-day streak of fully-attended family dinners in my home.

I find the business challenges of this pandemic crisis to be maddeningly complex and frustrating.   I seek shelter in the wisdom and support of others and my unwavering belief in our company.   I offer shelter by communicating my confidence in you.  In the past week, our people have done remarkable work and shown incredible compassion in supporting our local communities.   We are the model for preparedness and responsible action that customers, vendors and members of the public are trying to emulate and, in many instances, are literally copying.

I am very disturbed and saddened when I consider the human effects of my decisions to downsize our workforce.   I seek shelter in the understanding that this storm is temporary and that prudent, decisive action is in the long-term best interest of every person.  I provide shelter by showing empathy and offering reassurance for those being temporarily laid off.   We will reassemble our flock soon and step forward into the future together.

I do not like feeling isolated.  I seek shelter through the words of encouragement, endorsement and kinship that I receive regularly from others.  I offer shelter by reaching out regularly to people with a kind thought, a show of understanding and an offer of help.    One of the wonderful aspects of this crisis is how much closer the B&M community has drawn together and how motivated our people are to help others.  It makes me feel great and very optimistic.

Everyone has a large plate of worry and mine is no more significant than any of yours.  There is no magic in my coping strategy but it is working for me.  I urge you to find a drumbeat or a catalyst of your own so you can shelter yourself and others around you.

Have a great long weekend.  Thank you for everything.