July 4th is an All-American opportunity for the entrepreneurs among us!
This year, in particular, many will also reflect on the ways we must continue to improve as a country. On the ways we have failed.
Today I would love to spotlight and honor some wonderful traditions, a terrific family, and the beautiful truth – I believe – that we are all in this together. It’s a work in progress, as it ever has been.
“Each year, the town of Bethany Beach has a large parade on the 4th,” my friend Sam Funk tells me. “It’s very Norman Rockwell and includes the volunteer fire department, veterans’ groups, the police, businesses, local pageant winners, and various politicians. It also includes families and anyone else who wants to be in it. Although we were in it several years ago, our girls figured out that selling lemonade to the crowd watching the parade in the hot sun is quite fun and profitable! A few years ago, Hattie (our youngest) and I built a wooden lemonade stand which sits on top of a large wagon so it can be pulled easily. It has an American flag on the front and has plenty of room underneath for cups, ice and drinks…”.
It sounds wonderful, Sam.
Today’s second installment in the “Life in America” series features Sam and Betsy Funk and their three daughters (plus Mary Majors, their “fourth daughter,” a student from Uganda who got stuck in the States for the summer and is living with them)…
Hi Sam and Betsy! I believe Bacon readers will be moved by your stories, as I’ve been. Let’s begin with your daily lives. Well, no. Actually I’d love to begin with a few photos of the Bethany Beach parade from years past (sadly, but understandably, no parade this year)…
I’d love for Bacon readers to know you better, Sam and Betsy. Let’s start with your work, as we Americans often do. How has the pandemic affected your law practice, Sam?
Because lawyers are considered “essential services,” we have been able to keep our offices open and have given our employees the option of working in the office or at home. I’ve been going to the office every day. In fact, the girls have been there quite a bit doing schoolwork and other things. Overall, we have been fortunate as a firm to be productive and busy during this time.
Betsy, how has it affected your work at Park Manor?
As a physical therapist for residents at Park Manor, an assisted living and retirement apartment building, I have continued to work, except for a couple of weeks when we were prohibited from entering the building. My time at work has been spent with the painfully lonely older people that others only see on TV.
It has been heartbreaking for me to witness their response to this never-ending isolation. I have watched a gradual decline in their emotional, mental, and physical health, and I’ve noticed a sharp decline over the last two weeks. Maybe it’s because the rest of the country is opening up, and they are still spending their days alone. The caregivers at Park Manor are providing everything they can to support the residents within the constraints of keeping the virus from coming into the building. The staff have taken on extra responsibilities to their already busy days to provide for needs that families usually provide, including delivering toilet paper and sundries to each apartment.
As far as I know, no resident has tested positive for the virus, and I have been very fearful of unknowingly bringing it into the building. I take all necessary precautions, but I love our residents and listen to their worries about getting sick and dying alone. I don’t want my choices to endanger them, which has been stressful for my family and me.
The best part of my job is listening to my patients. They have endured far more than any other generation alive, and their stories are inspiring. And now, as they approach the end of their lives with not much left other than their relationships, those have been abruptly interrupted. While the rest of us would prefer to never Zoom again, my patients would love to have that option. Unfortunately, many are like my mother, who can’t quite grasp it.
One day a patient said to me, “I just don’t feel like exercising because my back hurts so much, but would you stay for a cup of tea?” I responded, “I can’t think of anything I would enjoy more, but I am trying to limit my interaction with you to keep you safe.” As I left with a tear in my eye, the door opened for someone to take his temperature and drop off his lunch, exiting as quickly as possible. He had eaten his last 105 meals alone with many more than that to come.
Sam: I think they are doing well, all things considered. That said, the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming school year has been somewhat hard on all of us. Mary Caroline, our sophomore in college, was supposed to be studying abroad in Coppenhagen, but it has been cancelled. Lucy will be a freshman at Virginia. For Hattie, she worked hard to make the high school lacrosse team this spring in hopes of playing one season with Lucy. This was my sixth year as an assistant coach for the team, so I was crushed that I did not have this season with both of them.
Betsy: I’ll let our girls respond:
Mary Caroline, age 20, who had to come home from Wake Forest: “I was really disappointed, but I have enjoyed having a few extra months with my family since I worked at a camp in California last summer. I can’t wait to get back to campus this fall for my junior year.”
Lucy, age 18, graduating from CPA and starting at Virginia this fall: “There have been a lot of disappointments in missing the end of my senior year, but my friends and I came up with creative ways to see each other safely.”
Hattie, age 15, starting 9th grade at CPA this fall: “I loved having Mary Caroline home, but I was so excited to play lacrosse with Lucy before she left for UVA. It was sad when our season was canceled after two games.”
Betsy: I’ll add that we’ve had a fourth daughter with us since the first of May. Mary Majors is a Belmont student from Uganda, and she wasn’t able to go home when Belmont closed. She is a precious addition to our family, and we have loved hearing her thoughts on everything going on right now in Uganda and the US.
Mary Majors, age 19, a rising junior at Belmont University: I was extremely excited to go home to Uganda, see friends and family, when plans changed dramatically. Although plans changed, this was one of the best summers I have ever had. I met so many new wonderful people, explored Nashville, and above all, I found a wonderful family. Around the first week of May, I moved in with the Funks. The Funks, along with some other families like Frists, changed summer for me. Some days I forgot that we were under lockdown. I did feel homesick at times due to the existing difference between Uganda and the States. But regardless of the homesickness, the Funks feel like family and I feel at home. Parents treating me like their own daughter and the children like a sister was the best gift I could ever ask for, especially during a time like this. It was a big gift having people I can look up to as a second set of parents and more amazing cool and fun sisters on the other side of the globe.
I understand that you’re currently spending the month at “Funk East” in Delaware. Is this something you do every summer? What are you most looking forward to?
Sam: Having grown up in Annapolis, I spent a lot of time at the Delaware beaches each summer. Since the girls spend most of the year in Nashville, where Betsy grew up, it’s been fun to spend summers in Delaware so they can experience some of the same things I did as a child. Because of COVID, all of the girls’ summer plans were cancelled, and they will all be at the beach. To me, it feels like we are getting a “bonus” summer, which makes me very happy! In terms of what I look forward to most, it is sitting on an uncrowded beach all day and then eating dad-tizers (appetizers made by me) before heading in for dinner or having dinner on the beach.
Betsy: For the last 14 summers, we have spent at least a month in Bethany Beach, Delaware with our family and friends coming and going. We see Sam’s family while there, and it’s the highlight of our year. I noticed what my friends enjoyed this spring were similar to what we experience every summer – lots of sleep, long dinner conversations, reading, exercising, writing letters, nowhere to be, etc.
How will this year be different?
Sam: We are disappointed that my dad won’t be there with us this year. He typically spends the summer in Delaware and the winter in Florida. For health reasons, his doctors want him to stay in Florida, which means that we will not see him at the beach.
Betsy: Typically, we stop and see family and friends on the way up and back from Delaware, and this year no one wants us to come stay with them! We’ll really miss seeing the folks we only see once a year.
True or false: “I’ve loved all the extra time at home this spring!”
Sam: True. Being at home more has given me more time to cook, read, exercise, and spend time with my family.
Betsy: True. I love being at home, and I love having my family at home. Nothing is better than all the Funks together. Our family motto is “You can’t spell Funk without Fun,” so we made the most of our quarantine time. One unnamed daughter even made a pyramid each week ranking us according to who had contributed most to the family that week, and even the dogs were graded. It kept us all on our toes since no one wanted to be on the bottom level. Her reasons for our placements were hilarious!
What has surprised you in the Time of Corona? What have you learned about yourself or others?
Sam: As I have observed others (especially in the nonprofits we’re involved with, our church, the schools our kids attend, etc.), I have been impressed by how resilient and strategic they have been about overcoming and addressing the many unprecedented challenges presented by Corona.
Betsy: I am sure I’m not alone in regretting the times I missed opportunities to connect with people. I considered a trip to Ireland in both November and February to see some dear friends there, and I did not go, thinking it would be better to go in the fall. Now, I am not sure when I will get to go.
We had about one second when this virus arrived on our shores when the overarching sentiment in our country seemed to be that “we’re all in this together.” That changed. Why? What is your feeling about the times we are living in?
Sam: I am disappointed that so many in our country have let political ideology and differences drive their response to such an enormous public health crisis. It is as if politics mean more than science and facts. Unfortunately, this appears to be yet another sign of the times in which we live.
Betsy: My perspective on life is shaped by working with our “Greatest Generation” and having parents who grew up during the Depression and WWII. Those events were marked by a spirit of collaboration and teamwork, with individuals sacrificing personally to benefit society as a whole. In March and April, my Mom and I talked about that spirit being evident in our current situation, and I’m disappointed to see this spirit disintegrating. I saw a banner today that said, “Go America. Beat Corona!” I want to get one of those.
What are you most worried about, now and going forward?
Sam: I am worried about the lack of leadership particularly at the national level from both parties. I recently heard someone say that we need a “Lincoln“ during these times. Unfortunately, I cannot think of anyone with the requisite courage, humility, wisdom and selflessness necessary to lead during this turbulent time.
The other thing that worries me (and it’s related to the above) is our inability to communicate with and relate to people whose beliefs are different from ours. I recently heard Cornel West from Harvard and Robbie George from Princeton speak on this subject. While they are both Christians, their views could not be more different on so many issues. Yet, they are the closest of friends and have been for years. When they talk about differences, they implore people to start from the simple proposition that all people (regardless of age, skin color, religious belief, politics, etc.) are created in the image of God and, as such, have inherent dignity. Although it is not always easy to remember this fact, it would go a long way toward breaking down many of the seemingly insurmountable barriers that exist in our world.
Betsy: I’m concerned that our country is not following the recommendations of brilliant scientists. Having science degrees myself, I see the value in data rather than politics and personal feelings. Scientists predicted a pandemic years ago, and just think how much better our health and economy would be right now if society had listened.
What are you reading/watching/listening to? We all need recommendations!
Sam: For over 15 years, I’ve been involved with The Trinity Forum, which is based in D.C. and puts on two live events each year in Nashville. I joined the board a few years ago and have been even more involved since then. Following the onset of COVID, Trinity has been offering weekly online presentations featuring a wide array of speakers discussing a diverse group of topics. Additionally, Trinity distributes a curated reading list of articles each day and quarterly readings of classical works of literature with a substantive introduction to place it in context. All of this makes for great reading and listening.
Through Trinity, I was introduced to James K.A. Smith and his book On the Road with St. Augustine. It is an excellent book and has led me back to the Confessions, which I am reading now among other things.
Lastly, as a family, we’ve watched “Downton Abbey” and several fun movies.
Betsy: I “read” constantly in audio format in the car and when I am home alone. Obviously, I haven’t been doing either, so I haven’t read nearly as much as I usually do, and nothing extraordinary, but I’ll pick back up during my walks on the beach.
There are two books I finished recently that would be great conversation starters regarding race relations in America. One is The Invention of Wings, which was recommended to me by my “second Mom” Carol Frist. It is loosely based on real-life abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sarah Grimke. The chapters alternate between the first-person voices of Sarah, daughter of a wealthy family, and Handful, a slave girl her age. If you want to experience the full weight of the struggles in their lives, I highly recommend listening to the book and hearing each character’s story in her own dialect.
Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming, is also a recent favorite, and I hope no one would allow differing political views to discourage him or her from reading it. Again, I am a fan of the audio version because Mrs. Obama reads it herself. There is no better way to enjoy a book than hearing an author read his or her own story.
I’ve been listening to the playlist Sam has been making for the last 50 days for my 50th birthday. He adds a song each day, so it’s like opening 50 gifts. Great gift, Sugar!
What gives you hope?
Sam: As I mentioned above, there are a lot of people doing a lot of great things in response to our current situation. When I step back and remind myself that God is bigger than any crisis or election or issue, that gives me hope.
Betsy: God is still in charge. Nothing catches Him off guard.
And now for some speed dating questions to wrap up…
Favorite beverage in the Time of Corona?
Sam: Starbucks English Breakfast tea is my favorite anytime and all the time.
Betsy: Whole Foods Buzz-Free decaf. With a slower pace, I drink three times as much as I used to drink.
Favorite child in the Time of Corona?
Betsy: That’s easy – whoever is washing the dishes! We cook a lot at our house.
Sam: Whoever Lucy places on top of the family pyramid each week!
Sam: Anything with seafood in it.
Betsy: Lucy’s biscuits. She made them far too many times while we were at home.
Cooking or ordering in?
Sam: We have been trying to support some of our favorite local places, but we’ve also been doing a lot of cooking at home. I love to cook and have been trying out new recipes. So far, they seem to be well-received (other than the calamari with no breading), and no one has become ill after eating them! Also, Hattie, our youngest, has become the master of the grill.
Betsy: We cooked almost every night, and then ordered from favorite local restaurants on Fridays.
Sam: We have been going on long walks in Warner park with our dogs.
Betsy: I established three rules for the girls and me on the first day of “stay at home.”
1- We all will exercise daily. The girls and I set up a great home studio and have taken all sorts of online classes together. It’s been fun in a painful sort of way.
2- Someone has to walk or run the dogs daily, and it can’t always be me.
3- Clean up the kitchen without being asked.
I made these rules on a whim, but they sure keep our house peaceful.
Sam: Being the one who makes others sick.
Betsy: Ventilators. I used to work in the ICU of the trauma hospital in Baltimore, and I’ve been scared of being on a ventilator ever since.
What makes you laugh?
Sam: Making and watching Tik Toks with my chicks (what I call my girls). Who knew I could dance so well!
Betsy: When I find myself searching for my lipstick and mask in my purse at the same time. I think I’ll just put all of my lipstick in a drawer. Why bother!
Best advice for staying calm, and sane, and hopeful?
Sam: Maintain a community of faith, which for me has included video church service on Sunday on the screen porch, Zoom Bible study on Friday and our church small group via Zoom on Tuesday evenings. For the girls, they’ve all three participated in RUF (campus ministry) each week via Zoom.
Betsy: Prayer and sleep – plenty of both everyday.
Thank you, Sam and Betsy – xoxo