The Road Ahead

May 2020
by Rachel White

It's hard to remember a time when I have felt as riven by conflicting emotions as I have these past couple of months. Despair and hope. Conviction and doubt. Joy and sadness. And just as it felt like we were coming through the first dark leg of our journey through the pandemic, we were confronted yet again with the darkness of pervasive, structural racism and the destructive vacuum in our national leadership.

Of course, nothing is different today than it was before George Floyd, Breonna Tayler and Ahmaud Arbery were killed; before Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Trayvon Martin were killed; even before Abner Louima and Rodney King were violently attacked. The long history of violence against Black people demonstrates how profoundly unjust and broken our society continues to be. I don't yet know how Byggmeister can play a role in building a fairer, more equitable and anti-racist society, but I know we must not stand on the sidelines. And I know we must do this even as we face difficulties ahead as the pandemic plays itself out.

And yet... we gratefully acknowledge that Byggmeister appears to be entering a new, more hopeful leg of our pandemic journey. After a ten-week suspension, we are slowly and cautiously resuming field operations. Our production team spent many hours and weeks preparing for this moment: drafting and redrafting COVID safety protocols, reviewing the protocols with subcontractors and clients, purchasing PPE and cleaning supplies, etc. After the anxiety of suspending work on five projects in mid-March with very little idea of when we could safely return, we are grateful to have reached this moment and proud of how thoughtfully and carefully our field crew prepared for it.

Even as we grieve our broader societal failures, failures that implicate all of us, we are thankful for many things. For our clients' trust and forbearance throughout the work suspension. For their health and for our health, even as we acknowledge how sickness, death and financial hardship have touched many.

We are thankful for many small (and not so small) silver linings of the pandemic. For the way our company has come together, developed deeper connections through virtual meetings (yes, through virtual meetings!), and built communication habits that will serve us well for years to come. For the mutual support of our colleagues, especially within the  NESEA community. For leadership within our local business community, especially from the Newton Needham Chamber of Commerce. For the brief respite for our planet and the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the cause of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

We are thankful and mournful. We are hopeful and wary. We embark on the next leg of the journey as emotionally torn as we were at the beginning. There will be times when we'll be driving blind. And there will be times when we'll more easily find our way. All the while, we will continue to strive to do good work and to serve our clients well. We will do these things knowing that even if we do them consistently, we will not be doing enough.

We are going back to work, but we can't go back to the way we worked before. We need to figure out how to do things better: as a company, as an industry, and as a country.

There's a saying derived from Pirkei Avot, a foundational text of Jewish ethics, that has been resonating with me these past few days. None of us is required to finish the work of repairing the world, but neither are we are free to desist from it. Especially during dark times we are not free to desist from this work. We must find a way to do our part, even when the road ahead is unclear.