This letter is to check in with our community.
We hope you and your loved ones are safe. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any assistance, whether or not it’s related to solar, and we will do our very best to help.
In biology, shedding one’s skin is called “ecdysis.” Snakes shed their whole skin in a process that can take up to two weeks. Lizards shed piecemeal, and insects like cicadas leave behind whole exoskeletons when they molt. Normally, human ecdysis is imperceptible because it happens via skin cells and strands of hair at a time. Normally.
During ecdysis, the new skin becomes soft, more permeable, and more vulnerable to disease and predators. During this phase though, the animal also expands, since growth is otherwise constrained by the rigidity of the old exoskeleton. Ecdysis even allows damaged tissue and missing limbs to be regenerated or reformed. Over time, the new skin hardens.
One way to interpret the discomfort that all of us have experienced recently is to call it grief, partially because we are losing our protective exoskeleton. There is too much suffering and loss to fathom right now, and the hardest hit will be the ones who have historically donned the least protection: gig and service workers, those with serious medical conditions, the elderly, those earning too little money to save for an emergency, and communities of color.
After ensuring the safety and health of our team, the first thing we did in the initial days of the coronavirus crisis was to call our customers to see how they were faring. We heard people say that they are suffering, that they are sick, and that they have lost jobs. We heard everyone say that they are learning to grapple. The uncertainty of our current era deepens the grief.
At Solstice, we have taken some comfort in focusing on what we can control. Solstice staff have been remote, working overtime to transition all our community gatherings online and helping people save money on their electricity bills. We will continue to do what we’ve always done—build trust within a community and offer a product that can truly make people’s lives better.
Amid uncertainty and political infighting, we have taken comfort in a few truisms:
- The work we do can help people immediately. People need relief, and community solar saves people money on their electricity bills with no upfront or additional cost. People need income, and our ongoing Ambassador programs give people and community organizations thousands of dollars when they tell their neighbors about solar.
- If you know of someone who needs extra income right now and wants to spread free energy savings to their network in New York, please send them our way. We have active projects all over the state.
- Community is our saving grace. We have formed deep connections with strangers over the last few weeks by simply trying to be helpful to them. Just as physical connection is withheld from us, we have relished and relied on human connection more than ever.
- The work is going to be critical after this is over. COVID-19 serves as a visceral reminder of our collective interdependence. How we fare depends on how others are doing, and our mutuality supersedes national borders. This is equally true of climate change and pandemics.
- This too shall pass. As awful as this shared experience feels now, it will be ephemeral. We will come out of it, and if we make the right decisions as leaders, we will learn from it.
Given the unprecedented nature of this era, we are all learning together. It is rare to have a shared experience so universal and global, but therein lies the key to surviving it: We desperately need each other.
While on her honeymoon in 1978, Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye was brutally robbed of everything she owned. A stranger came up to her after the robbery, looked her in the eye, and said, “I’m so sorry this happened to you.” That day, Naomi sat down and penned a poem:
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
Whatever you’re going through, know that someone in Ohio or Alabama or Italy or China or Iran has felt the same way. We are all being forced to shed our collective skin, and we are ensconced in that vulnerable phase when our soft underbelly is exposed. But it is also during this time that we grow and we repair and we rebuild. As painful as this is, we are supplanting the rigidity of our old exoskeleton. Because moments of crisis are also moments of courage. And because this too shall pass.