About a month ago, I was sitting at my desk working diligently when my phone rang. A tired employee called to say that my parent’s home which is adjacent to the farm property of our business was on fire. In the home was my mom, dad, my brothers, and my four month old who my mom watches while I am at work. Thankfully everyone got out of the home; I immediately went to check the status. At the end of the whirlwind of events, all the clients from the farm were in good spirits, everyone got out of the home, and due to the additional fire extinguishers staff ran from the farm building and busses, the home was saved!
At the end of the day, my family had the same reaction they often do in times of crisis. They were tired, relieved, but as usual hope glimmered through. My mom even joked, “ahh the room that got damaged was the next room I planned to redo anyway!” Maybe this is an unhealthy hereditary coping mechanism, but the enthusiast in our spirits always seems to prevail.
I looked at the ash and soot that had climbed the two story home with bones that carried me from childhood to today. There are so many memories in that home. My dad left his job as a pastor and took a risk for his family by buying that home. My brothers and I held each other after learning of our brother Gabe’s death. The house held many family members, guests and travelers over the years and even though I no longer live there my spirit will always identify it as home. When I look at the 120 year old childhood home I realize that the year of 2020 is just another adventure to those old bones. This may have been the first fire (and hopefully the last) for my parents’ home, but that house has had years of refining beyond the flames that nearly consumed its life. As humans we may not get 120 years so events like Covid-19 have so much more impact.
I am not someone to look back but in this instance I cannot help but reflect on the last year and two months that Covid-19 has impressed on our lives. This season has taken souls from family, friends, and coworkers. This season has taken away jobs, homes and opportunities. I think it’s important that we reflect on that moments of how this season has come to burn up the things that matter most to us; it can be painful to visualize the burns that our society carries and the discouraging impact it has brought. Yet on this overcast day in spring where the sky cries over our land, we know that rain is what brings new life.
I am humbled by the refinement that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to Downsize Farm and the Spotted Cow. At the beginning of this season we had no idea if we were going to survive. We were forced to change, alter, and grow. For Downsize Farm, we have been struggling for quite sometime feeling like we were constantly fixing the bus while it was rolling. Covid-19 allowed us to slow down everything, to work on refinement of our organizational structure. With the help of DODD, we were able to maintain a good revenue stream. Downsize Farm was also the recipient of two PPP loans, one of which was fully forgiven. Downsize Farm also received an Innovation Grant from DODD which has been an amazing growth experience for our Organization.
At the beginning of 2020, The Spotted Cow was looking at moving to a location in downtown Urbana just weeks before the nation shut down. We learned our current location was where we were meant to be. Our drive-through was our saving grace during the pandemic and conscious locals stayed close to home and impacted our regulars and returners for the better. 2020 was by far our most successful year yet, and we are now exploring the idea of franchising.
The Covid-19 pandemic is real and raw. As the CEO of two companies with a mission of growing opportunity for individuals with disabilities, this time has been terrifying and discouraging. Our team encountered multiple lose-lose scenarios in which it seemed impossible to meet the desires of everyone. We carried through seasons of quarantines for staff, clients, and their families they fought illness or awaited the virus to attack. In times that we needed others most, we were forced apart by social distancing and opposing views.
2020 is certainly a chapter that many of us would long to wish away, yet its impact will forever be scorched in our minds. I don’t want to negate the horrible year so many people have faced, and I humbly express homage to those who have battled more than I. Yet the enthusiast spirit within me is thankful for unmatchable experience as an entrepreneur and the perseverance of a loyal team. By God’s grace we have marched through an unquenchable fire and as we walk out of the smoke and into the spring rain, we are bold, we are hopeful, we are refined.
The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Psalm 27:1