JONAH Reflections on a COVID Year

By Donna Raleigh

Soon after COVID started, JONAH Organizer, Lynn Buske, created the JONAH COVID Advisory Task Force to share ideas on JONAH’s role in the time of COVID. Recently, the task force reflected on what has been learned, what has been done, and how JONAH can be the bridge as we move forward. Here is a summary of that reflection.

  • As everything shut down, JONAH transformed itself into a virtual communication organization. We learned to Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Hangout at Google. JONAH even held its annual event and fundraiser online. It worked well. David Shih, our keynote speaker, was great, and we raised over $2k for JONAH. Paul Savides and Lynn also conducted some very successful JONAH trainings on Zoom. We learned that one-on-ones can be done very effectively online. After things are safe for face-to-face meetings, we need to reflect even more on when and how on-line communication can be just as productive as in-person communication. After all, who doesn’t like meeting with others while still in pajamas or leisure wear? Or, not going out in the cold? It certainly worked well for me! It was easy to participate, share ideas, and advance my skills as a JONAH leader. 
  • Grit—we learned that we have grit. We became resilient, adaptable, and flexible. We strengthened our partnerships, particularly with the City/County Health Department.
  • COVID highlighted the reason JONAH exists: social injustices. While we are constantly aware of social injustices, they became even more evident in the news headlines, on social media, and in the COVID statistics. To highlight these injustices, JONAH, led by our organizer, Lynn Buske, created memes highlighting injustices in our community with an action to take to overcome these injustices. You will find the memes here:
  • We saw that emergencies became pervasive not only for people on the margins, but for people who never dreamed they would be a tight situation. The JONAH COVID health survey found that mental health was (and remains) a huge issue in our community; one that JONAH will need to address to a greater extent. If you wish to help here, please contact Lynn Buske, [email protected]
  • The big surprise was how politicized the pandemic became: personal liberty or care for neighbors? Follow the science or the anti-science? Stay home for the holidays or travel? While staying at home proved difficult for me, a total extrovert, I appreciated time for meditation, for appreciating nature, and for reflection. Lynn asked me to post a daily JONAH reflection on the JONAH Facebook page, . For me, this has been the best outcome of the pandemic! While posting reflections that resonate with a large group, I found others that truly have helped me weather this isolating time.
  • JONAH will be paying close attention to long-term issues raised by the pandemic, such as, the effect on faith communities, just pay for essential workers, humane treatment for incarcerated individuals, and equity for people of color in the areas of health, small business subsidies, and, of course, voting rights.
  • Last, JONAH’s message through all of this past year and into the future is one of HOPE. As the injustices became more evident, JONAH and its affiliates, along with our parent organization, WISDOM, worked diligently to change policies at the local and state levels. JONAH continues to exude HOPE and will not cease in its efforts to reach justice for all. 

Paul Wellstone said, “It is the belief that extremes and excesses of inequality must be reduced so that each person is free to fully develop his or her full potential. This is why we take precious time out of our lives and give it to politics.” This is why JONAH exists, why its members strive to change unjust policies and procedures, and it is why your help is needed.