By Sarah Rushakoff
Married into a Pandemic: Laura and Andrew Woods were married in their dream Jewish ceremony on November 30, 2019, after dating for three years. They were able to travel for their honeymoon and returned to Memphis eager to settle into what they thought would be typical married life—then COVID happened. “…That anticipation of ‘when are we gonna have a normal day as a married couple’ was weird. We had this idea in our heads that, like everyone else’s, kind of got flipped upside down a little bit,” said Laura.
Figuring out a daily routine was more difficult than the couple had imagined when their temporary work-from-home situations eventually became the norm. They decided to try to turn their challenges into opportunities for growth.
Fair Play: Since they were both home most of the time, Laura and Andrew quickly realized they needed to find a way to divide housekeeping labor. To achieve their goal of a balanced home, they used a book titled, “Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live).” For any household where the labor is divided, the couple recommended following the advice in the book and having frank conversations about expectations. And once they did, breaking down household chores became uncharged and manageable.
“That was a tangible thing that was super helpful finding a good rhythm in the home. Not just physical things like the dishes, but emotionally, like these are things we needed in order to work better together,” Laura said.
Personal Lessons: Laura said her biggest pandemic lesson has been being more intentional with her time. “I think we make better use of our time together and try to make it intentional quality time,” she said. “I’ve probably been more in contact with my family via Zoom and Facebook since the pandemic. If anything, we’ve grown these relationships, especially with the family that is not in Memphis.”
The main thing Andrew said he learned is boundaries with social media. He logs out of social media when friends and family are vocal about uninformed and even harmful opinions about things like vaccines or mask-wearing. “I turned my Facebook off. It was just too much,” he said. “People do not care [about considering other viewpoints] if they believe they are right. Whatever their opinion, if they think it, they’re gonna say it.”
Committed to Tikkun Olam: Sharing their voices with the community, Laura and Andrew have become more active in the past year. They both said it has helped them maintain a sense of momentum during a time when we have all felt a loss of control over our lives. They are grateful to the social justice cooperative MICAH (Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope) for helping bring important issues to light.
Through his work with MICAH, Andrew has been invited to attend a social justice leadership training conference this spring. The couple is also building a team of delegates to represent Temple Israel more officially at MICAH meetings and events. During the recent winter storm, they found another way to give back to the community.
Comfort Keepers of the Mid-South employs trained caregivers for in-home care. With the snow and ice, many of their workers could not safely get to clients’ homes. With their four-wheel-drive vehicles, Laura and Andrew leapt into action. “Laura’s call was a prayer answered,” said Wendy Rotter, Comfort Keepers’ Chief Financial Officer. “I cannot tell you how many miles they drove—likely over 1,000 miles and too many hours to count—early mornings and late at night on icy roads from Frayser, to Germantown, to Whitehaven, to Arlington and all over. Without their love of community, so many of our elderly clients would’ve gone without, or had gaps in their care.”
Laura and Andrew did not want to be congratulated or compensated for their mitzvot; they wanted to inspire others to take action and practice tikkun olam in their respective communities. “The pandemic hasn’t stopped us. If anything, it’s encouraged us,” said Laura. “What can I do while I’m sitting here? Let me find other ways to make the world better.”