We have just passed the anniversary of Captain Sully piloting the U.S. Airways flight, successfully landing it in the Hudson River following a catastrophic engine failure from a bird strike. The entire nation, the world, listened to the many grateful passengers and crew who came through the event with little more than soggy passports. A truly shared experience for them. Not so fast.

I remember the entire flight crew being interviewed on television, each telling their tale of training and relatively calm passengers. All but one. “That was not our experience,” she said. “It was very, very different for those of us at the rear of the cabin.” She spoke of passenger panic and her own terror as the water rushed in. There was a hush onstage as this emotion was clearly unexpected. Life-altering events are unpredictable.

And so it goes with this pandemic. My firm and I serve a variety of nonprofit groups. We interact with the directors and chairpeople daily and have seen a vast spectrum of behavior in this time of decision making. As most association boards continued to meet, they were stymied at every effort to carry on as usual. As volunteers having pledged to help their fellow industry members, they were understandably distracted with personal challenges.

The tunnel has gotten longer and the light at the end of it is still not within reach. As we all attempt some sort of new rhythm, please know that everyone you speak to is writing a different pandemic history. One of our chairmen pressed a committee member for a rapid reply of a document. Turns out their sister had died the night before and their best friend in the morning. Oh, and their child had just tested positive.

Please be extra kind to every person you interact with. They have not shared your experience, nor you theirs.


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