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To quote Mahatma Gandhi: “In the midst of darkness, light persists.”

We have now endured more than six months of this (your favorite adjective here) pandemic which upended our lives in sudden and startling ways. So what lessons have we learned during this dark, tumultuous, uncertain time? We asked some influential Pittsburghers to share their lessons in the hopes of inspiring us all because we need all the inspiration we can get.

We’d love to hear what you have to say on the subject, too. Email us here.

Gregg Behr, executive director, The Grable Foundation

“Shut up and listen. I’ve learned this lesson repeatedly; and I’ve had to learn it again and again, even when I’ve sought to offer answers or suggest solutions earnestly. More often than not, the right answers and the best solutions are found in the listening. That’s never been truer than during these past few months, whether at home with my kids, via Zoom with colleagues, or reckoning with the news of the day. What’s going on? How can I help? Yet again, our favorite neighbor Fred Rogers put it simply, and rightly: ‘Listening is where love begins.’”

Aradhna Oliphant, president & CEO, Leadership Pittsburgh

“What I have realized, again, is that constraints can inspire innovation and taking a pause causes deeper reflection. At a personal level, I have found that I like working from home more than I thought I would (and I am an extrovert!), that may be because through LP’s programs I still get to ‘meet’ with such a diverse set of smart people. I miss the hugs though!”

Carrie Coghill, CEO & president, Coghill Investment Strategies

“The importance of face-to-face collaboration has been a lesson learned during the pandemic. Not only from a productivity perspective but also within the human context. It helps people feel more connected and have a sense of importance. Thank goodness for Zoom. My motto is ‘video on!’”

Leah Lizarondo, CEO and co-founder, 412 Food Rescue

“I am learning radical focus. Our work has escalated along with the rapid and steep increase in need. We are firefighting, completely task-oriented and yet the future planning cannot stop — even amid all this ambiguity. The challenge is compounded by the fact that family and work have no boundaries. The only way to keep on making progress is learning to work in bursts but with radical focus each time.”

Stefani Pashman, CEO, The Allegheny Conference on Community Development

“This is a time of crisis and our mettle is being tested. Even so, we’ve got a chance to shine, because in Pittsburgh, we’re in it together. We know that with ingenuity and commitment we can move our region forward safely. That’s the ethos of this place. It’s what sets us apart. That’s what inspires me.”

Lou Testoni, retired managing partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers Lake Erie market

“Sometime in March 2020, I woke up to learn freedoms we routinely take for granted were suspended to avoid the perils of COVID 19. Working home alone became the norm, dining out or even in with friends or family was canceled and my daily Starbucks fix was on hold. The world beyond the trails my dog and I walked daily was closed. And who would have thought that donning a cloth mask would be an infringement on our personal freedom to wear what we want? Social distancing required me to give up the warmth and intimacy of the hugs and cheek kisses that made greeting a friend special and welcoming. I no longer take these small freedoms for granted — I now cherish them.”

Emmai Alaquiva, producer and CEO, Ya Momz House, Inc.

“What I’ve learned most about this arresting time in America’s history is that we can’t let life get in the way of living. When we place the brash inflections of life to the side and live, we give ourselves the pillars needed to reevaluate the very foundation of every relationship we have.”

Albert Ciuksza, VP of growth and development, Solutions 21

“I guess the broadest answer is that I’m horrified to learn how fragile our systems are, especially the extent to which we are willing to allow vulnerable populations to go without support.”

Michelle King, teacher and instigator (From a tweet.)

“Practice JOMO, the joy of missing out, instead of FOMO.”

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