Despite social distancing, it was still St. Patrick's Day in Eastown

Many of us are staring at our screens of all shapes and sizes as we binge stream everything from an endless loop of news (and in all its many forms) to the latest entertainment content from providers like Netflix, Hulu, or Prime.

So when a friend texts to say on St. Patrick’s Day, “We are hosting an event,” my heart stopped because events as we know them right now under the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic and how we are being directed by the CDC.gov to operate, I had to reply, “Call me.”

The result of that call is this tiny piece created by Lizzie Williams of Open Systems Technologies, Inc. and an Eastown resident, who reminds us that even in a time of self-isolation, we can safely innovate old (and sometimes forgotten) ways forward under the current healthy suggested distance of staying at least 6 feet apart.

Thanks, Lizzie, for reminding us in this personal essay that even under adverse conditions, our desire for the community can still happen. We just have to innovate (and again, safely) ways to keep our communities connected.

Be the bridge, 

Tommy Allen, Publisher
Rapid Growth Media

_________________



Working from home today, I gazed out my living room window, down Logan Street, and recalled a surreal moment a few Christmas Eve's ago, while sitting in this same chair. 

Instead of catching the morning sun coming through the trees eager for Spring, there was a light snowfall drifting through the haze of a streetlight. 

My ears perked up to the whisper of a beautiful melody calling from the street. I got up and went to the window and caught the sight of bagpipers, donning their traditional kilts and tartan, playing as the snowflakes fell. It took my breath away. 

Sitting in that same seat today, despite the sunshine and the Irish holiday, the streets were still. 

So, as I looked up from my computer screen, craving the magic of community that I felt that Christmas Eve night, I decided to ask for it. 

For some of us extroverts, even a few days tucked away in our homes can feel like a lot and I was yearning for the spark of connection. 

So I decided to post on the "Eastown Residents" Facebook Group to see if anyone knew the bagpipers and to see if they might be able to talk them into a St. Patrick's Day serenade. 

By now, many of us have seen the videos of people in Italian cities, confined to their homes for multiple days, taking to their terrace balconies to join a neighborhood ensemble or chorus. It was inspiring. 

And with the sun shining, the day felt ripe for something special. 
 
Within the hour, the post had gained traction and the sister of the legendary Eastown Bagpiper had been contacted. She gave me the incredible news that her brother was in town and was up for the show. And within three hours, Jesse on the bagpipes, and his pal on the drum, set off on a 90-minute parade that wove along the streets of Eastown, bringing joy to so many homebound neighbors. 
 
We cracked open our chilled Harmony Brewing Co. beers, food coloring was busted out of the pantry for cookie decorating, and in classic Eastowners style as we stepped out on the porch we could smell a bit of that legal green instead of having to wear it — so whatever, this was an impromptu celebration of one’s choice and done safely. 

It was a festive moment for our neighbors, who waved from porches, toasted from arms-length, and kept their jigs to a safe six feet.

It's days like these, friends, that we have the opportunity to find unique ways to come together and support one another. It's days like these, I'm so grateful to call myself an Eastown Resident.


Lizzie Williams leads internal communications efforts for OST, a technology and design consulting firm headquartered in Grand Rapids. She is a Grand Rapids native, an Eastown resident, a proud Michigan State Spartan, and recently added “wife” and “step-mom” to her defining roles. Lizzie received the Grand Rapids Chamber Young Professional ATHENA Award in 2014 for demonstrating leadership in her field, opening doors of opportunity for women, as well as contributing time and talent to the community. She is now the Council Chair for the Grand Rapid ATHENA program and she sits on the Board of Directors for the Saint Mary’s Foundation, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and for her family’s business, Williams Distributing/Williams Kitchen & Bath. 
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