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Finding connection and optimism amidst challenging times

Finding connection and optimism amidst challenging times

I often find December carries with it a certain optimism. Perhaps it’s the promise of some time off over the holidays to relax and recharge, or the anticipation of seeing family and friends we may not see throughout the rest of the year. For many, its simply the joy of the season – the twinkling lights everywhere, the continuous stream of holiday treats carefully crafted by earnest bakers poring over hand-written cue card recipes, the excitement of the first snowfall and carrying on family traditions year after year.

While the holiday season may mean something different to each of us, it is important to reflect on the common threads of humanity that bind us. World events from this past year, including the attack by Hamas against civilians in Israel, the ongoing crisis in Gaza and all those who are suffering in Israel and Palestine, have had a direct impact on members of our community. My deepest sympathy is with those who have been personally affected, both within and outside of our community. In times of conflict and divisiveness, the need to identify common threads, share perspectives and feelings in a safe space and listen respectfully to others doing the same is incredibly important. I am grateful for our colleagues in the Division of Equity, People and Culture who have organized in-person gatherings for staff to connect, find comfort in sharing similar worries and provide support to each other amidst the ongoing crisis. If this may be beneficial to you, I encourage you to sign up for one of the two upcoming sessions here.

As we consider the best ways to support each other and strengthen our culture of compassion and inclusion, I have been reflecting on my consistent desire to connect with you more regularly. This year, we introduced a new model for divisional engagements that prioritizes answering your questions and cultivates learning opportunities to expand your understanding of certain topics or initiatives of interest. I always appreciate hearing from you and answering your questions in a town hall setting, but I recognize that there are situations where questions, issues or concerns may require attention that precedes our next town hall. I also find such value in reading your perspectives and feedback, as it helps me understand your priorities, challenges, points of excitement and expectations around your work and our division.

In the spirit of all of the above, we will be introducing a new two-way communication channel on the Office of the VPFA website. At any time, you can share your questions, feedback, concerns or perspective directly with my office and divisional leaders for timely response. It is my hope that we will be able to improve our communication outside of planned divisional engagements as a means to strengthen our culture, enhance transparency and accountability and ensure we are supporting each other effectively. This new channel is the first of many resources that we hope to roll out for DFA staff. Other items we are currently exploring include a mechanism for staff recognition, an archive for all departmental updates and newsletters, and a repository for helpful templates, guides and forms.

Though the past several months have brought tremendous challenges, I hope you can count on December to bring glimpses of optimism. Look in places where it may be hiding – in between snowflakes, a smile with a kind stranger, the love cooked into a shared meal or the peace in solitude. I hope you can also find ways to support those around you, in the spirit of the season. Lend a hand where you can, check-in on a friend or colleague, volunteer your time to a cause you are passionate about or offer support in a way that is meaningful. However you choose to spend it, may December bring you something – whether big or small – to find enjoyment, appreciation and anticipation for the year to come.