Written by: Christopher Plein, Ph.D. West Virginia University and MFLN Caregiving Team Member
It is the winter solstice, or nearly so. While the days will soon be getting longer, the colder months are upon us and the year is coming to a close. It’s a time for reflection. Recently, I have been mulling over Aesop’s fable of the “The Ants and the Grasshopper.” Most of you will know the story and how the grasshopper fiddled away the summer with music and dance, as the ants industriously prepared for the winter ahead by harvesting and storing grain. I offer the fable to my students to remind them of the importance of studying and preparing early for the projects and tests that will come at the end of the term. With the weather closing in and semester’s end, it is little wonder that I am thinking about this fable.
As I have been going over my past blogs for 2017, a couple of constant themes stand out – one deals with knowledge and the other with change. Knowledge comes about through self-awareness and self-reliance. We live in an information-rich age, but we do not always avail ourselves to reliable knowledge that is literally at our fingertips or to the wisdom of those around us. Change is a constant — but unpredictable. We need to anticipate and prepare for life’s vagaries – whether it’s a change in a policy or program that affects our job, or whether it’s a more jolting change that affects the wellbeing of a loved one who may need our care and support. Like the ants in Aesop’s fable, it is important for us to gather a storehouse of reserves – in our case knowledge and awareness so that we can meet the uncertainties of the future with wisdom and confidence.
The Military Caregiving Team and the Military Families Learning Network offers programming that is aimed at helping us acquire these resources. We do this through webinars, virtual events, podcasts, and video series, but also through blogs. To help gain knowledge of important policy developments regular updates and reviews are often the subject of a blog. This past year, we did this even if it did involve a “Little Medicaid Summer Reading” . We also tracked the rapid and uncertain developments in the politics of the Affordable Care Act . Taking a step back, we explored how the design of our government and the past shapes current policy development and outcomes – Encountering Change Part 1 & Part 2. An appreciation of both policy and program detail and the context, helps us to assess the present and to anticipate what might be in store for the future.
We also explored that when facing change, it is important that each of us be self-aware and self-reliant. But this does not mean going it alone. Indeed, we may be not see the bigger picture or appreciate the views and needs of others if we do not work with others. This is a concept we explored in a blog on fairness, inclusivity, and ethics entitled “Gaining Perspective to Understand Change”. We also learned that we should be aware and cultivate our networks and links to many resources: whether it is to help us care for a loved one; to access the many resources that are available in communities; or connect to resources through the military family readiness and support system.
We can learn a lot from the ants in Aesop’s fable, but life is not rewarding if we do not have a little bit of the grasshopper in each of us. As we invest effort to build the storehouse of knowledge and self-awareness, also take time to celebrate and enjoy. There’s no better time than now. Season’s greetings and best wishes for the New Year.
This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on December 22, 2017.