It’s September. During much of my life, this time of year has pointed my mind straight as an arrow to my purpose for the upcoming months. Fall approached. School had opened. As a student and teacher for 60 years, I knew where I was going and what I would do. This year is different. Since late January when the first confirmed case of the coronavirus was confirmed in our country, the only definite known is the unknown. The life we knew is gone.


I’ve recently heard friends muse wistfully, "It seems like we’re living in another world. I don’t feel like myself." We feel like ships with no rudder, kites with no tail. We wobble and roll aimlessly from one direction to another. Vacations, concerts, family visits and church services are canceled. We stop making plans to avoid the disappointment of cancellation. Some days we don’t get dressed at all. For quick trips to a one-stop-buy-all, we think, "Why put on makeup and fuss with my hair, since a mask covers my face and tousles my hair?"


Previously, the onset of September reset my mind, pushed the switch from lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, those unending days without schedules and bedtimes, to fall frenzies of school, football, fairs and festivals. In past years, summer’s purposelessness provided a pleasant interlude from the school year’s busy schedule, whereas 2020 continues as one continuous haze of uncertainty. Many days present as vinyl records playing the same phrase over and over until someone gets up, goes to the turntable, lifts the needle and moves it to the next groove.


As I see it, we now need a spur to lift the needle and move us to a new groove, a new purpose.


Mama Vick and Mother Melba were both purpose driven long before Rick Warren wrote his bestselling book "The Purpose Driven Life." Both gained satisfaction from providing for their families, as well as others in their communities. Extending a helping hand to someone in need was always part of their purpose. Mama walked up the hill day after day to help an aunt care for a new baby, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry on a rub board. She cared for the sick, comforted the lonely and encouraged the forlorn. Mother freely gave her talents to enlighten people of all ages, leading children and youth choirs, teaching both elementary and secondary students in public schools and leading adult studies in church and the community. She also shared her gifts as pianist and vocalist.


As an adult living during the uncertainty of COVID-19, as I look back on my impressionable years with my mother and grandmother, I realize their lives had also been uncertain. Mama’s high school education was cut short by a crash of the cotton market, her early marriage was affected by World War I and the flu epidemic of 1918, and she was left a widow to raise two children during The Great Depression. Mother was five when the stock market crashed in 1929 and 11-years-old when her father died after a simple knee injury turned deadly. Married at 17, only three months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, soon her young husband joined the U.S. Navy and relocated to California. During her 18th year, Mother joined him to be near his ship until it disembarked for months at a time to the South Pacific.


Today as I float aimlessly with no rudder during these erratic days of pandemic, I take comfort in acknowledging how these two women provided a stable, positive environment for our family. Current reflections remind me that as Sister Patsy and I worked and played under their loving, cheerful care, their days too were uncertain. Yet, with purpose they presented a united front to show us how to put one foot in front of the other and our heads down against the wind in order to press on until the storm passes.


I began the long, treacherous journey to computer literacy as an adult. I still thrill recalling the sheer excitement from the first successful attempt to turn on the power button of my Apple IIGS during my first official computer course. I was a teacher. Computers were the wave of the future in 1986. I had no choice. I had to learn computers. Resisting and fighting every step of the way, I gritted my teeth and plunged in. I attribute my ultimate success in basic computer literacy to one Judith Stone, media specialist extraordinaire at Chaffin Junior High. Judith’s two elementary tenets of computer literacy were these: 1) You are not going to damage the computer by making mistakes and pressing keys and 2) if you can’t determine the problem, turn the computer off. Wait 30 seconds and turn it back on. In other words, reboot the computer.


You know, today I think I need a reboot. After all, it is September. I need to shut down. Wait a while. Get back at the computer and start pressing keys; keys expressing acceptance that life is different now and may never be the same as before the coronavirus; keys reminding me of Mama and Mother’s approach during times of uncertainty; keys directing me to safely connect with and assist others; keys getting me up, going to the turntable, lifting the needle and moving it to the next groove.


It’s September. Let’s push the reset button, reboot and discover a new purpose driven life.


Come on. Let’s get our groove back. Shall we?


Louise Owens Finney is a retired secondary teacher and part-time minister in Fort Smith. She can be reached at LouiseOFinney@gmail.com.