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Thoughts from our Co-CEO: The Importance of Pause when a Global Crisis Forces You to Pivot

Written by Tina Campbell, Co-CEO, ASSETS

Last fall, I was accepted into the Baldwin Leadership Program through the Lancaster County Community Foundation. This fellowship has two components: 1) the opportunity to be included in a cohort of amazing community leaders and 2) grant funds to allow each of us to do a project that will enhance our individual leadership development. 

My project was to learn Spanish. I love languages. Languages open up worlds for us and help us to literally and figuratively understand each other so much better. I know German semi-fluently, having lived in Germany and also hearing my grandparents mix English and Pennsylvania Dutch as I grew up. But, I have always wanted to learn Spanish.  I know that language study takes many years, but I was determined to get started on my Spanish learning this year. So, I planned to use my grant to study at an immersive Spanish school called Isla Language in Puerto Rico for three weeks. 

This time in Puerto Rico happened to coincide with the timing for my sabbatical from ASSETS. One of our great employee benefits here at ASSETS is the opportunity to take a sabbatical after five years of service to reflect on our work, refresh, and renew. Sabbaticals help to create an intentional break, allowing staff to come back with renewed creativity and energy to continue to do this necessary work. Our sabbaticals can be scheduled for six weeks, so my plan was to spend the first three weeks in Puerto Rico then finish the second half of my sabbatical at home, working on some of my own renewal and re-energizing so that I could jump back into the work when the time came.

Puerto Rican countryside

I arrived in Puerto Rico on February 29, 2020 and spent the first two weeks immersed in Spanish school—attending class until early afternoon and then exploring the island (and drinking in some sun) in the evenings.

Towards the end of my second week there, I began to hear rumblings of things starting to close back home. I admittedly was blissfully unaware of most news, largely because the news around me was in a language that I was only beginning to learn! It was only as my husband started to share what was happening at home that I realized that something major was about to take place. I decided, with a lot of regret, to leave Puerto Rico immediately—and a week before I had intended. I left the day before everything on the island closed, including my Spanish School, so it was the correct decision! 

I spent one more anxious week at home until I finally decided that it was time to head back into work, much quicker than I anticipated. The world was changing around me, I was seeing our amazing small businesses close, and I knew my colleagues were scrambling, so it wasn’t a hard decision to return.  

While I intend to take a (slightly shorter) sabbatical when the world is out of crisis mode, there have been some great outcomes from my shortened time away.  The Spanish school I attended in Puerto Rico moved online—which means that I have been able to continue learning Spanish for much longer, and with the same excellent teacher, than I ever intended.

Tina (right) continues learning Spanish online

And, I have really learned the importance of a moment of pause. In the midst of long workdays and a lot of concern for our community, I have been able to find moments of pause—in my backyard or on a walk or in a quick song pounded out on my hammered dulcimer.

These aren’t long moments. There is a lot of work to be done and we are busier than ever at ASSETS. One minute is often all I get, but it is enough to ground me again. And I am determined to continue my one-minute pauses long after this crazy world event ends.

Estoy agradecida por la oportunidad de aprender español. Estoy agradecida por una pequeña pausa. Y espero que todos podamos encontrar un momento para hacer una pausa hoy.

English Translation: I am grateful for the opportunity to learn Spanish. I am grateful for a little pause. And I hope we can all find a time to pause today.

This story is part of ASSETS’ Covid-19 blog series.