How we commemorate grief is as important as how we celebrate joy. How we eulogize loss is as important as how we extol greatness. How we remember moments of tragedy is as important as how we regard triumphs too momentous for words. Whether we suffer illness or enjoy the blessings of wellness is reason enough for us to give and receive respect. The same is true for companies—all companies—whose duty it is to not only inspire workers, but to thank them too.
The tangible expression of gratitude is a symbol as familiar as it is distinctive: a mold of a human hand. A symbol of peace or a sign of perseverance, be it a handshake between statesmen or the hand of a signatory to a statement of principle, every hand contains multitudes—from the creases and curves to the sinews and shapes to the callouses and contours, every hand speaks to the character of a person’s humanity.
Every hand speaks to the wisdom of experience, representing a pearl of the heart (by and from “A Pearl of My Heart”). Every hand, in a time of pandemic, has the power to counsel the young, console the sad, and strengthen the righteous. Every hand has the power to deliver the many from a wilderness of sickness toward a land of readiness.
Everyhand is necessary, now more than ever, to remind people of burdens borne and hardships met; of the price we have all paid to assure the survival and success of our own humanity. Every hand is necessary, too, for us to remember the lost and honor the living, because we draw inspiration from both the past (and those who have passed) and the present. Every hand is present well after ashes turn to dust, which is to say the likeness endures regardless of whether a person is gone forever or away but still living.
We need symbols of hope to achieve wellness. Whether the symbols are spiritual or secular, whether they are personal or public, whether they are exotic or of a more everyday variety makes no difference. What matters is the connection between mind and body, the connection a symbol creates or sustains between, say, a vision of health and the real-life attainment of wellness.
What matters is what companies do to renew that connection, when workers have jobs but no common workplace; when independent contractors have assignments but no interaction with employers; when technology shows people’s faces but prevents face-to-face meetings.
Connection is the foundation of society. To sever or weaken the connection between friends and neighbors or employers and workers or citizens and their respective communities, to sever the multiplicity of connections, to sever the network of interconnectedness between individuals and institutions is to upend society itself. Put another way, social media is not a solution to social isolation.
If we cannot socialize in person, we should have a keep sake to admire—a symbol to touch—while we weather a summer of beauty outside and tumult inside. If we cannot lend a hand without wearing gloves and a mask, if we must distance ourselves from those we long to see, let us at least have a totem to motivate us; let us have something to save us from a season of social despair and psychological pain.
Let us be mindful of the fact that we cannot be well if we do not feel well, despite the exercise we do or the foods we eat or the nutrients we consume or the vitamins we take. The mind cannot withstand uninterrupted chaos and death, not without damaging the body or causing a person to harm himself. Wellness, in other words, is improbable if not impossible amidst a daily onslaught of sickness, violence, and anarchy.
What, then, can companies do to improve this situation? More importantly, what must companies do to lessen the intensity of this situation?
Betterto say what companies should not do, as a commitment to wellness is more than a series of phrases or a collection of meaningless catchphrases; as if companies can elicit praise without earning respect; as if companies can advertise their good intentions without exerting themselves to do good works; as if wellness is a keyword to optimize sales rather than key to everything companies do, from hiring and retaining workers to boosting workplace morale.
Better to give each worker an icon of personality, to give each worker a hand, than to hand out generic messages about health and wellness. Better to show appreciation than to say thanks in a mass email. Better to act with sincerity than to pretend to revere it.
Now is the time for companies to sow renewal, not discord. Now is the time for companies to lead by example, setting a precedent worthy of recognition. Now is the time for companies to achieve the substantive through the symbolic, meaning: Now is the time for companies to give a heck by giving each worker a hand.
In a crisis of health, silence is not an option. Amidst a pandemic, passivity is not acceptable. During a threat to all parties public and private, indifference is not a virtue.
Wellness is our goal. Wellness must also be the goal of every company that aspires to do well without acting poorly. Wellness must be the mission of every company that acts in the interests of its workers.
Wellness is a vocation, not a vacuous word or concept.
Wellness demands resolve and maturity, the ability to withstand challenges minor and major; the ability to accept criticism and the charity to give thanks; the ability to be a leader.
Companies must seize this moment, leading us toward a future of better health and wellness. Companies must do their best to save the last best hope of earth: the goodness of man.