Recently, I heard a wonderful phrase.
It’s quite simple: NEVER WASTE A CRISIS.
Think about it. This pandemic — and all of its various fall-outs — have created a unique and international crisis situation. It’s certainly created a lot of suffering and stress, but maybe also the most extraordinary opportunity to think outside the box and make deep changes in our personal and collective lives.
For years on this blog, I’ve written about reinvention and why I think it is such a wonderful thing. I’ve always spoken from a very personal point of view, with my own tale, when, after having been a full-time mom for 20 years, I launched a blog and ended up with a multi-brand business.
I chose to reinvent myself, but today, with the pandemic affecting every corner of our planet, reinvention has become a new reality for many people who never went looking for it.
Rarely has creativity been so much at the forefront as during confinement. More time on our hands, the need to communicate beyond our limited daily circle and the awareness that creativity is good for us on so many levels. And most of all, the realisation that creativity can take on so many different identities.
But, of course, the pandemic has also meant that a lot of people have lost their jobs or seen their income drastically diminished. It’s particularly hard for the generation of those just out of school and looking for the first steps in an exciting career; many plans have been shelved, many hopes disappointed.
However, there is (nearly) always a way to find a silver lining in the greyest of clouds, and I wanted to give you a story that I have heard around here. Abou a village who decided not to waste a crisis.
In a nearby small and rather quiet village, the sudden arrival — or rather return home — of young people who lost their jobs has brought about some unexpected changes.
The village counts a population of under five hundred. There is a little school, a church, a couple of farms and a bakery. And that’s about it. Any shops are fifteen minutes by car, and, of course, there are no restaurants or cafés.
Traditionally, the kids raised here leave home as young adults to start work in Paris, Rouen or elsewhere in France. Consequently, the year-round population is either very young or much older. The pandemic-induced recession weighs heavy here, and the return of so many young people without work could have been a disaster.
But together the village put their heads together, got creative and found a way to make the most of this crisis.
Two years ago, one of the oldest members of the village , André, passed and (most unusually) left his house to his neighbour, Jean.
André had no family, no specific ties, and he lived comfortably. Jean was a younger man with young children, and he and his family had always shown André kindness and kept him company. There were no strings attached to the inheritance.
Jean and his wife were surprised by the unexpected will. At first, they were excited and contemplated what to do with the property: they thought about selling it, renovating it, or even moving into it. But they had just renovated their own home, which they loved, and were not looking to start another big project.
While they were wondering what to do, the pandemic started to rage. Any ideas to sell were abandoned, and energy was concentrated on their jobs and the family’s health. Around this time, a dozen young people returned to live with their parents, waiting to know what the outcome of the crisis would be. Jean noticed them around the village, and he had an idea. He asked to meet with the village council and laid out his plan. When they heard it, the council members were surprised but agreed.
Today, one year on, André’s former home looks a little different. In fact, it is transformed. His garden — previously simple, with grass and a few trees — is now a thriving kitchen garden. The first floor of the house has been repurposed into a small store on one side and a tiny café/bistro on the other.
Here, there is a steady flow of activity, from youngsters tending the garden, to others selling in the store, to three more cooking and serving in the café. The prices are reasonable, and there is no lack of clients. The villagers are thrilled to be able to buy produce grown on their own territory, and they love to eat in the bistro, or even purchase meals to take home.
The youngsters who had lost their jobs now have new skill sets and a huge sense of achievement. And they will come out of this crisis stronger for it.
I was amazed to hear this story, and I think you might be, too.
I wonder, do you have any happy crisis tales to tell?