As I have noted in previous issues, we are putting this paper together remotely, from our homes. Since I returned from a brief vacation to the U.S. in early March, I’ve been in quarantine with my family. A few days after we returned, the country underwent quarantine to battle the spread of the coronavirus. The fact is, I probably prefer working from home, not commuting, and spending more time with my wife and the five kids that still have at home.
Not working in the office is not so much a challenge as an opportunity lost. No longer is it so simple to commiserate with colleagues at The Interimand Campaign Life Coalition; emails, texts, and videoconferences are meagre substitutes for actual conversation. Many stories I write – and sometimes chose to write about – are influenced by conversations with colleagues. Sometimes the importance of an article becomes clear after a conversation about it, other times I see a previously unconsidered angle.
As The Interimand CLC moves to Hamilton I thought of barely going into the office. It would be more convenient on a personal level to avoid the three-hour round-trip commute by public transit, convenience that goes beyond the bus or train ride itself and the time in commute: later dinners, missing children’s performances and other school events, having my ever-patient wife Christina bare a greater burden of transporting kids to and from school and after-school activities.
I thought of the benefits of working from home and the focus it provides without those distracting but ultimately useful conversations.
But then my thoughts turn, as they often do, to the big picture. What is work for? As Sean Speers, a former policy advisor to Stephen Harper, says, work is about more than a paycheck, it is about the non-financial benefits of work. Some of those include dignity, self-worth, and sense of purpose. Another, Speers says, is interaction with co-workers and customers. It ties us to a group of people we might not know otherwise. I don’t consider my work colleagues family, but they are an important community, especially considering that we share core values about life, faith, and family. We are models of faith and family to each other, supporting what often seems to be counter-cultural lifestyles of fidelity to traditional ways of organizing our lives.
The fact is, I probably would not be the Catholic I am today without seeing orthodox Christianity lived around me by my co-workers; I’m not sure what my family life would be like without witnessing so many large families that I have come into contact with because of the pro-life movement.
My compromise between the various needs and wants and desires when it comes to balancing work and family is that I will commute to Hamilton twice a week and work from home three days a week, once commercial life is reopened and life returns to normal. I do not (quite) share the pessimism of my friend Rick who said “they don’t seem to want us to be a society.” But to ensure that I am connected to others and have the relationships that make us human and humane, it may be necessary to endure the inconvenience of the 90-minute commute to our new offices.
Which brings me, finally, to emptying my Toronto office. After 19 years, I have accumulated a bountiful set of newspaper clipping and other files and a nice collection of books. There is not room for it all in the new, smaller offices. The pandemic quarantine prevented a proper redistribution of some of this material to those who may have wanted what did not make the move to the new office or my home office. I am genuinely sorry about that.
I was surprised that I suffered no nostalgia whilst whittling what I was keeping and what would be donated, recycled, or trashed. Like the late Fr. Alphonse de Valk, I’m trained as a historian and value the substantial archivesThe Interim and CLC have accumulated over decades. But ultimately, the office, the memories, the archives, is not about things, but people. It is about co-workers, but more importantly it is about those people vulnerable to the Culture of Death. Our work to protect them continues, regardless of where I sit to put out The Interimeach month.