Hello, fellow Hike it Baby families. I am writing to you today with very mixed emotions. Our state just made the call not to let our kids go back to the classroom for the rest of the year. This greatly affects my family, especially my kindergartner. As her mom, I am frustrated, sad, and overwhelmed. How am I supposed to make sure she gets her education for the rest of the year while juggling full-time work, a three-year-old, and a cooped up family stuck at home? I know my struggles in the big picture are pretty trivial, but I also know there are many families experiencing this or other immediate challenges that feel very big right now.
In fact, we are all experiencing new and unexpected hardships. Being under quarantine, practicing social distancing, and following executive orders to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 is really hard. It brings so much uncertainty. Many are losing jobs, some are losing loved ones, and we’re all losing access to our usual coping strategies. Not knowing when it will end can be debilitating.
In this time of extreme struggle, I would like to ask you all to consider your judgment of others. An HiB advisor, James Edward Mills, recently shared this post on his Facebook page:
“It’s no secret that I haven’t been sheltering exclusively at home. I’ve been going outside by myself to get a bit of exercise, fresh air and sunshine between long sessions in front of my computer. I’ve kept my distance from others at all times and I hope that folks understand that time outside is a way to maintain our physical and mental health during this national crisis. As long as we don’t congregate in groups or make direct contact with the people we meet out there we can avoid unintended exposure to the virus. A friend shared on Facebook this morning something that I hope we can all bear in mind when we consider how those around us are doing their best to cope: “I’ve tried to formulate into words how I feel about all the harsh comments and judgments on FB which honestly have just made my heart hurt but have always come up short. These are not my words but I agree 100% so am lovingly sharing: ‘I’ve seen a lot of nasty posts in regards to people making “non-essential” trips .. Do you ever think maybe that guy buying a gallon of paint knows he must keep busy because idle hands in the past have caused him to relapse and pick up that case of beer? So he’s using this time to do home improvements, something that keeps his mind busy while feeling a sense of accomplishment, trying to avoid painful triggers while possibly alone? Or maybe that lady buying bags of soil and seeds, hasn’t struggled with depression and suicide? How do you know that planting and watching something beautiful grow during this time of darkness, isn’t essential to her and holding on to what little hope she might still have .. We need to remember that it is impossible to know just by looking at a situation from “our” small lens what someone is truly going through or where their mental health is at. Everyone handles chaos and healing through different means, and I know we are all on edge but please stop being so judgmental of others.” #mentalhealthisnumberone”
It really spoke to me because I think it is so easy to judge others for what they are doing, without actually understanding them or their reasons. All we know is what we see. We have to take it upon ourselves to look past that and seek understanding, or at the very least, accept that we don’t have all the information and let go of our assumptions to give others some grace and the benefit of the doubt.
I have been hearing from our Ambassadors that many of them are worried about posting in their Branch Facebook groups right now because they don’t know how it will be perceived if they share how they are getting outside. They are especially concerned about families who don’t have safe access or means to get outside right now feeling sadder because of their posts. I applaud their big hearts. I also want to encourage all of our members, ambassadors, and families who follow us to reach past the fear and check in with each other. Have open conversations wherever you can to find out how others are doing and to find out what you might do to support each other.
Protecting our mental health and being kind to each other are some of our best weapons against the current chaos. Remember that our children are watching us and learning from how we handle this. We need to show them it’s OK to be stressed and it’s OK to be worried, but that we can still be positive and supportive, too. We are finding new coping strategies and new ways to be a part of society right now. We don’t have all the answers, but we can help each other find solutions. Our own kindness is one of the few things we still have control over. Find a way to get a breath of fresh air, even if it’s just by opening a window and setting a chair underneath so you can bask in the spring sunshine. Don’t begrudge others when they find their moment. If you find yourself thinking critically of others, try to give them grace by considering the reasons they might need to be doing the thing you are judging. If you were in their shoes, why would you make the choice they are making at that moment? Is there a way you can be positive instead of making a negative or critical comment? Is there something you can do to avoid or ignore what you’re seeing?
I know it’s hard, but do your best to look for the good as much as you can. Compassion is so important in times of struggle. Be creative in finding your own outlets so you have space to offer positivity to others. Stay safe and protect your own health, especially your mental health. Most importantly, stay kind and keep your judgement at home, safely socially distanced from others.
-Jessica Carrillo Alatorre, Hike it Baby Executive Director
About Hike it Baby
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Photo courtesy of Andrea Leoncavallo.