Not in Control

I’m often a Zoom host on calls of 10 to 40 people.  I started learning how to do this in October, 2019 and it’s been a rocky road since.  I’ve made lots of mistakes, ones that diminished the experience of many folks.  And I’ve forgiven myself for that.  It’s always my intention to be excellent but sometimes my brain has trouble keeping up with my heart.

Twenty-one months later, I’m a good Zoom host – not brilliant like a few Zoomies I know, but I take care of the participants well.  Then there was today.  I was a host three times … and adventures abounded.  For instance:

1.  There’s a chat feature in Zoom.  My job in the early morning was to post a message that the organization wanted to be passed on.  I copied and pasted and … Voilà (!) the window started filling with fast-moving “j”s!  Within two seconds, the space was full.  I scrolled down, trying to get to the end of the letters – still full – so I scrolled some more.  Finally a blank space at the end of the zooming “j”s.  I slammed my finger down on the space bar and the flood stopped.  I held the backspace key down and watched in horrified fascination as page after page of “j”s were sucked back into cyberspace.  “What’s going on?!”

2.  My job includes dividing participants into pairs for the breakout rooms.  There’s a “Create Rooms” window that appears.  Piece of cake occasionally, lots of focus required usually.  I clicked a little up arrow to increase the number of rooms to accommodate the 20 people who were on one call today.  Suddenly 100 breakout rooms appeared and I couldn’t think fast enough to get that number down to 10.  So there were 20 folks, each alone in a room, surrounded by empty rooms.  I gathered my wits (slowly) and manually paired up the participants.  The body was shaking.

3.  On another call, I set the length of the breakout sessions to the standard 30 minutes.  I thought I was finished with that part when I glanced down and saw that the time had magically morphed into 300 minutes.  I fixed that.  Then I got busy with other tasks.  Just before I was to open the rooms, a little birdie told me to check the settings again.  The big uncover?  The sessions were set to close in 3 minutes.  (Sigh)

Somehow (thank you, whoever you are) I got through all this.  The participants were well served, and blissfully unaware of my trials.

I ended the afternoon chatting online with a Zoom support person.  After much exploration together, he thought my program was corrupted.  “Uninstall and reinstall”.  So I did.

And tomorrow is another day.

Speaking to Kids

This afternoon, the school welcomed a motivational speaker.  Sara was dressed all in black and was thoroughly alive.  She walked with power and yet was delightfully vulnerable.  She kept saying “Put your hand up if you’ve ever …”  Her hand went straight up in the air every time, in response to life’s tough moments: you say something dumb, you do something mean, you fall far short of excellence.  Yes, there was a real human being in front of us.

The children on the gym floor ranged from Kindergarten to Grade 6.  Some hands, usually the young ones, went flying up when Sara asked if they had experienced something.  Some hands were at half mast.  And many of them never seemed to leave the owner’s lap.  We vary in our willingness to be “out there”, and that’s just fine.

Two of Sara’s main messages were “I matter” and “I am enough.”  She often shared these in a call-and-response fashion, and many children belted out the words.  I hope it sank in.  I hope they remember tomorrow, next week and in ten years that each person belongs.  Each person has a contribution to make.  Each one of us, 8 or 82, can do great good in the world.

Another idea of Sara’s is “asking”.  And she had a story to tell.  She loves singing and ever since she was young had wanted to sing “O Canada” at a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game.  Time to ask.  She phoned the Blue Jays office and said something like “I’m a singer and I want to sing ‘O Canada’ for our Toronto Blue Jays.”  The answer was no.  Awhile later, she asked again.  The answer was still no.  A third time, and Sara added more: “What about next season?  What do I need to do to be considered?”  And the answer?  “Make a recording of you singing ‘O Canada’.  Send it to us along with a photo and a list of all the times you’ve sung in public.”  So Sara did just that.  And she waited …

Finally, Sarah phoned again, and reached the person responsible for the game ceremonies.  And she heard this: “When can you come?”  She ended up singing the national anthem six times for the Blue Jays, in front of many thousands of fans at the Rogers Centre.  May this story also reach the kids.

Sara throws herself into life, and I’m sure the children noticed.  Will the young ones be brave enough to do the same?  I pray that they will … because our planet needs them.