Anxiety in 2020: Out of the Frying Pan into the…


By Marcel Hernandez

It was about 5am when Lindsay and I woke up one morning in May of this year to find our older son, Cruz, had a fever. He was lethargic and didn’t want to eat much breakfast. At the time, I was working from home, my hours had been reduced to 20/week, and – like many others – we were having trouble securing some food resources because we had to adjust our budget and grocery distribution chains were strained.

Anxiety was already high, patience was low, and it was tempting to be resentful toward the many hardships 2020 presented. Since I spent a lot of time in the same area of our home as Cruz, I knew we had to go get tested. I had heard the PCR test (nose swab) was a rather uncomfortable experience, so I committed to enduring it calmly to give Cruz confidence. I told him I’d go first, so he watched me from the backseat of the car as the nurse practitioner did the test with me in the front seat. It didn’t work. By the time they swabbed his nose, he was crying loudly. I can’t imagine what must have been going through his three-year-old mind, so I comforted him. We went back home and spent the next four days quarantined in a bedroom, with our family bringing us meals.

He never exhibited any other symptoms, and neither did I. He watched Netflix while I worked, and then we played games and he watched me do burpee drills to pass the time. I had to maintain a positive attitude to lessen the impact of isolation on him. He longed to play outside and be with the rest of our family. We finally got the results back…both negative.

Our story is similar – and yet different – from many others. Some have lost loved ones this year. Others have cared for sick loved ones and even endured illness themselves. Many have lost their jobs altogether and have found it difficult to navigate the collective anxiety many of us have felt this year. For me, the anxiety came from reduction in hours, scarcity of resources, and the fear that I would get my family sick. We are used to having an image of our enemies…and yet COVID-19 is faceless and indiscriminate. At the onset of the pandemic, I noticed how my dad was calm despite vastly different circumstances, so I sought his guidance. His words gave me courage and strength. My mom has done the same.

If anything I have learned this year, it is the nature of the strength we ALL have within us, that is awakened amid hardship. I have also been reminded of the value of the relationships we have with the people around us. By and far, these relationships have sustained us. Even though we have been unable to spend time with my in-laws regularly, we have been able to FaceTime and have distanced visits. Papa (my father-in-law) even made a Spider-Man (Cruz’s favorite) jack-o-lantern for the boys and brought it to our front porch. Nana (my mother-in-law) is patient and offers words of encouragement to them.

The moment I learned my hours were being reduced, I reached out to a good friend, who helped me secure part-time employment. Another friend assisted by providing a wholesale food resource channel through his company. Another friend graciously gave us a large freezer to store the food we were able to secure…and taught me about other methods to prepare through economic scarcity. Yet another friend taught me ways to prepare food inexpensively—and with a limited schedule. Another friend—an epidemiologist—gave me insight into safeguards we had to implement to minimize risk and exposure to our family.

Collectively, these people eased some of the fears in my mind. As time went on, I thought to myself, “Many people who don’t have these same relationships are surely struggling much more. How can these hardships be leveraged in a positive way?”

Enter Chef to Table.

Chef to Table is a grant-funded, free to the public, program that brings quality, budget-friendly, time-efficient recipes—virtually, on demand—into your kitchen. The program places an emphasis on kitchen safety, while expanding on existing skills and ideally expanding your palate. Thanks to our grant—our partnership with the Nashville Juvenile Court—some local families will also receive a set of kitchenware and weekly food boxes.

The Chef:
My good friend of 20+ years, Ted Tom (SW Steakhouse, Wynn Las Vegas)…who taught me how to prepare meals inexpensively.

Our program coordinators:
My father-in-law, Woody Murray…who has given our family strength.

My good friend and younger son’s Godfather, Ivan Diaz…who helped our family secure food.

My good friend, Judd Cowan…who gave our family a freezer, taught me about being resourceful, and has helped to elevate the voices of our youth and the Be About Change mission in meaningful ways.

If anyone is the mastermind of the Chef to Table vehicle, it is Judd…and all other team members play a critical role. Mr. Murray assists with marketing and presentation. Ivan is experienced in food/restaurant/hospitality operations and service delivery, and Ted is the talent…and you know what they say about the talent 🙂 Just kidding. Ted is my brother…who has seen me at my best and my worst.

It is important for me to introduce you to this team of individuals, because they helped to elevate my mindset and spiritual condition through one of the most difficult years our communities have faced. I’m confident their efforts will do the same for you.

Marcel Hernandez

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