Great to SEE You Again!

Michael J. Readinger

Happy Veteran’s Day! As I write this column, I am remembering those who have served in our nation‘s military. Our safety and liberty are things we should not take for granted, and we owe a debt of gratitude to all of those who worked to secure the liberties we enjoy. I am traveling today (and that is the point of today’s column) and had the good fortune to be upgraded to a seat in first class. As I approached the gate, three young men in military uniforms were about to board, so I rushed forward and told the gate agent to give my seat in first class to one of them. After a quick contest of rock, paper, scissors, one of them took my seat. As I boarded, he thanked me. I said you’re welcome, thanked him and his friends for their service, and took his seat in the back of the plane — with his two friends. We had a great conversation, played a few more games of rock, paper, scissors, and laughed the whole flight. It was the best experience I have had in quite some time!

So, I am traveling today. In this country, we are traveling again. I do not predict that things will return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, but currently, it is exciting, and it is great to see you again! I just spent a full day with the Mennonite Health Services (MHS) Board of Directors, where I presented the CHHSM RDEI Case Study (let me know if you would like someone to present this to your Board or Staff). I knew quite a few people in the room when I began the presentation, but I now feel as if they are my family. I am prayerful that our brothers and sisters at the MHS table will embark on an RDEI journey soon. I promised to support them in this work in any way possible. I could have made this presentation by ZOOM, but actually being in the room together was impactful on so many levels. All those side conversations between sessions, all the dialogue and sharing personal stories, the surprising and unexpected outcomes, and the shared passion in ministry were what made seeing each other in person so wonderful.

And by the time you read this column, the CHHSM Board of Directors and Staff will be meeting in person in Chicago for the first time since March 2020. Mind you, we have spent hundreds of hours together on ZOOM in the past 20 months, but this will be amazingly different. We will be able to shake hands and hug; we will be able to sit quietly in a corner and talk about our family and friends; we will be able to share our joys, concerns, fears and hopes; and we will be able to look each other in the eyes. That is so important on so many levels. Additionally, we will be able to tour two of our member organizations, learn about their ministries and see their teams in action. At a third site, we will learn about their work through a series of speakers’ presentations. Sadly, not all of us will be present, but those who cannot be with us will join us the newfangled way (ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM!). In full disclosure, we are not doing this recklessly. All participants are fully vaccinated, many with the booster as well. We will comply with all CDC, local and ministry setting guidelines for in-person meetings. But we will be together again, finally. We will be safe. We will honor the fact that it is great to see each other again — outside of that little square on the computer screen.

If all of this goes well, and if the rate of vaccinations continues to escalate, and if the rate of COVID-19 cases continues to decline — just think how great it will be to see each other again at the CHHSM Annual Gathering in March 2022, or somewhere else before or after that time!

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Levity and poignancy were present in equal measures at the first retreat of the 2024-2025 Nollau Leadership Institute, held May 20-24 at Bellwether Farm in Wakeman, Ohio. #BeAVoiceCHHSM ... See MoreSee Less
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