I suppose the word “balance” seems preposterous, given how radically COVID-19 has disrupted our lives. I'll use the word anyway, because having lived through my share of extreme adversity, I find the concept of balance highly useful.
As I noted in my last blog, in 1981, when my wife and I bought our first home, an arsonist almost burned it to the ground. After three break-ins, we moved back in—with no heat, hot water, kitchen, or windows.
Here's how we were able to create a new balance amidst a crisis.
Self. I had to quit my job in order to manage the restoration of our home. We were living in a construction zone with enough soot, dirt, dust, and chemicals to make the healthiest person sick. We had to be very careful to protect ourselves, which involved lots of handwashing and using masks and gloves while stripping paint and varnish. I would become so exhausted that I came very close to getting sick. I had to pay careful attention to my body in order to stay healthy.
Family. Both of our families offered extraordinary support. Provi's family brought food and household supplies, pitching in to help us restore our 1899 Queen Anne home. My family was mostly remote, so phone calls were the primary lifeline for us. We learned the importance of sharing how scared and overwhelmed we often felt. Just their listening and understanding made a huge difference.
Team. We had a crew of family, friends, and contractors—including my friend, Freddy Rodriguez, and Provi’s brother Chino, both of whom lived with us during the restoration—working almost daily to restore our home. It was essential that we continually asked each other what we needed and the spirit of generosity was contagious. It sparked a lot of offers of things we didn't even know we needed—like a security dog, used furniture, and electrical equipment—donated by kind friends and family.
Faith. Given that our new home had almost been destroyed and many of our prized possessions were taken, leaving us with little money and a huge pile of work, we had to believe in something greater than ourselves to keep moving our seemingly broken lives forward. Somehow, everything we needed showed up. This experience strengthened my faith in what I call G-d and many people called by other names. To me, it is the infinite intelligence, the loving force that connects all life. I learned to take the time to show gratitude to that being.
2: Adapt Your Routine
Provi’s at-work routine hadn't changed much; she still had to be at work at 7:00 a.m. But as the days passed, we realized that it was important for me and our work crew to have a defined beginning and ending to our day. This was especially true for Freddy, Chino, and me, who were all living where we worked.
It was necessary to reestablish our eating and sleeping routines as quickly as possible. Each of us got up at the same time every day. I established fairly consistent meal times, so our crew knew when we were eating and Provi could count on dinner, cooked on a Coleman camping stove, not long after she returned home. We spent quality time with family and friends, playing darts and drinking beer on the front porch after a long day's work.
To keep our spirits high, we limited our news intake to avoid being overloaded with sad news—while there was no social media or Internet back then, 1981 was among the highest crime years in the history of New York City. Exercise consisted mostly of taking our dog, Tiger, out for walks.
And after dinner each night, I met up with Freddy to plan the following day's work before going to bed in a home that reeked of fire and smoke. Before we fell asleep, our form of prayer and meditation involved reflecting on how we had taken another small step forward that day towards a less stressful life.
3: Find Your Higher Purpose
As time created some distance from the March 28th fire, I began to see the higher purpose in this tragedy, despite all the destruction it had caused. At first, we thought that we lost everything. But when our life settled into a pattern and our survival no longer hung in the balance, I came to believe that I could give this event meaning.
The meaning that I found was the lesson that I didn't really own anything. We may have “owned” our home and the things in it, but it could all be taken away in an instant and there was nothing we could do about it. But what was not taken away—and perhaps even grew, due to the experience—was our courage, resourcefulness, and the love of our family, friends, and neighbors, some of whom we’d never met before the fire.
When things got tough, I reminded myself of this higher purpose. I learned to share my appreciation of family, friends, and community. And to acknowledge myself for what I was able to do in the face of an event that could have taken me in a very different direction. As long ago and as different as this situation was, I now realize how much it has to offer me today.
We are all discovering new ways to connect virtually through this crisis, and how to help each other by pooling our insight and resources. To that end, we have begun a (virtual) Opportunity Community Group of conscious business and civic leaders, artists, activists and health and wellness practitioners. We convened our first Zoom meeting on April 2nd with twelve participants.
The response was extremely favorable—everyone felt connected and heard, and the group shared resources to help with the problems that they are facing. We have planned a second meeting for this first group and have started a second group for those who were unable to join our initial meeting. If you or someone you know would like to be included in our Opportunity Community, please email Janie Brookshire (
By being a part of our community, you help us advance our mission of building a global Culture of Opportunity. We are grateful. Support conscious business, and each other, and please stay safe.
All the best,
Opportunity Lab partners with University of Maryland
While here, they take integrated classes and complete research projects, connecting them to a variety of US-based organizations such as the World Bank, United States Agency for International Development, and the United Nations.
This semester, a project team worked with Mark Monchek as a mentor. To learn more about the program, check out our previous newsletter about Mark's work with Associate Professor Meg Brindle (pictured center front), who teaches the Opportunity Lab's Success DNA module as a tool to explore the students' origin stories and definitions of success.