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KellyGram: My Church & The Pandemic

 

 

As I’ve done many times since the birth of the KellyGram, I must once again give a shout-out to my beloved church, St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal, for its outstanding leadership and commitment to its members. For people of many religious backgrounds, traditional worship has been turned upside-down by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s in these times of crisis that we lean most heavily on our faith. Fortunately, the staff and clergy of St. Martin’s have done an exceptional job responding and adapting to the limitations that social distancing has imposed on the congregation, and with the help of technology, they continue to share the Good News.

For starters, the newest addition to our clergy, the Rev. Deacon Caitlyn Darnell, was ordained last Thursday as our transitional deacon; in order to allow the congregation to join in her ceremony safely, St. Martin’s live-streamed the ordination on Facebook. Sunday worship services are also streaming live each week and being posted to the church’s Youtube channel. They’re sharing daily devotionals online and have added a new web feature—Grace Notes—where members can share moments of goodness and gratitude in the midst of this nightmarish pandemic. One of my favorite, recent posts is this meditation Caitlyn conducts on Psalm 23. I applaud the efforts of St. Martin’s to stay devoted to its mission and keep the faith alive and strong in its congregation during these unusual times, and I look forward to what message my church has to send each day. Right now, we must find respite where we can, and for me, I’ve found it in St. Martin’s. I hope each and every one of you find yours, too.

Stay well,

 

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – COVID-19: Coping with Uncertainty

 

 

What else could I write about this week when there’s only one topic on everyone’s minds? That, of course, is the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty it has injected into our lives. It’s fair to say I’m no spring chicken, and as such, I’ve lived through a number of frightening outbreaks, such as SARS, Swine Flu, and Ebola. The very first national health crisis I personally faced was the polio epidemic that terrorized our country in the 1950s. I can distinctly remember going to the Greensville County Volunteer Squad Rescue—holding my parents’ hands and scared to death—to receive my polio vaccine.

Even so, I must say that having faced a threat of this nature before does not make it any easier to endure the current crisis brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus. Every day brings more reported cases, more deaths, and more uncertainty. The economic implications of the pandemic have left people and families across the nation in a lurch, with unemployment rising and the stock market falling. So far, I’ve been one of the lucky ones; I’m healthy, able to work, and my loved ones are safe. But not knowing if or when that will change is unsettling.

Frankly, these are strange and frightening times, and it’s difficult to move forward when we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But while we are all naturally worried about what’s to come, it’s important not to dwell on “what ifs” and matters that are beyond our control. This is no easy feat, especially for those who are self-isolating, but it is possible to do! Be mindful of where your mind wanders in the coming days, and if you find yourself ruminating over what will happen next, stop and change directions. Call up a friend you can laugh with, get some exercise (you can even find free live classes streaming online here), or take a time out to do something you enjoy, like reading a good book, working on an art project, or catching up on your favorite show. Allow yourself to set aside your worries. Times are tough, but finding moments of reprieve will make them more tolerable and make us more resilient!

Stay well,

 

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – #MariStrong

 

 

I originally planned to write this week’s KellyGram about my law partner, Lisa Cotten, who is scheduled to receive an award tonight for her outstanding leadership in her profession and community. True to her commitment to helping others, Lisa specifically requested that instead of sharing her story, I share that of Sarah Bauer and her son, Mari, who are in need of community support. Upon learning of the plight Mari and Sarah are facing, I was moved, and I suspect many of you will be as well.

Mari is a sophomore at Blythewood High School and the classmate and teammate of Lisa’s son, Myles. He is 16 years old, has a twin brother, and is an honors student who lives to play football. Mari began experiencing seizures in July 2019 and was diagnosed with epilepsy. His neurologist started him on medication and cleared him to resume normal activities, but Mari’s condition continued to worsen. On February 19th, Mari underwent an MRI to narrow down the cause of his seizures, which revealed a concerning spot; he was promptly referred to a neurosurgeon. When Sarah and Mari met with the neurosurgeon the following week, he delivered earth-shattering news: Mari had a brain mass in his right frontal lobe.

Due to the tumor’s size and the swelling around it, Mari’s doctor advised that it needed to be removed right away; nine days later, on March 3rd, Mari underwent brain surgery. The procedure was successful, and he is now home and recovering while he and Sarah anxiously await the pathology reports to confirm whether the tumor was noncancerous. The emotional toll on the family has been and will continue to be tremendous, and Mari’s treatment has taken a considerable financial toll as well. Sarah, a single mom, has had to take time off from work to care for her son; meanwhile, she must continue to provide for her boys and do so while paying off astronomical medical bills.

Mari and Sarah’s story is a compelling one, and you can read more about it—and Mari’s recovery—on the GoFundMe page created on their behalf. I encourage you to take the time to learn more about Mari and his family here, and to consider contributing to their cause in a way that feels comfortable to you.

Have a blessed weekend,

 

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands

 

 

I’ve always had the ability to keep a fairly calm demeanor in the face of crisis, and that quality is a blessing for which I’m eternally thankful. I must admit, though, that I’ve been tracking the Coronavirus and am growing more uneasy by the day as it continues to spread, leaving patients and their families in despair and wreaking havoc on the global economy. News updates are becoming increasingly unnerving. Just this morning, I heard a report on South Carolina Public Radio that the U.S. is already facing a shortage of the protective surgical masks needed by healthcare providers treating Coronavirus patients. Meanwhile, although scientists are working day and night to develop a vaccine, it appears that it will be months—possibly years—before any treatment will be widely available.

Though South Carolina has not been impacted to date, all of our bordering states have reported confirmed Coronavirus cases. Realistically, there is no longer a question of “if” the epidemic (pandemic?) will reach our border—there’s only a question of “when” it will happen. But as that reality grows nearer and communal anxiety intensifies, it’s imperative that we take measures to limit our worrying and keep our fears in check; after all, stress weakens the immune system and makes us more vulnerable to viruses.

It’s times like these where I find myself gratefully reaching for that inner calm I mentioned earlier, and I’d like to share a few steps you can take if you’re having trouble curbing your own Coronavirus-induced anxieties:

  • Plan Ahead. Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and right now we are all uncertain about how the Coronavirus might disrupt our lives. Being prepared for the possibility of a local outbreak can help us regain a sense of control. So put a contingency plan in place: find out if your employer offers a work-from-home option, consider your options in the event of a school closing, and determine where you can find reliable, local updates in the event of an outbreak.
  • Unplug. It’s important to stay informed as the Coronavirus epidemic progresses, but constantly reading headlines and news updates will not prevent its spread and doing so will only fuel your anxiety about the situation. Be mindful of how much time you spend monitoring the virus and find ways to be present in the moment.
  • Get Plenty of Zzz’s. Although we still don’t know much about the Coronavirus, research shows that, as a general rule, well-rested bodies are better able to fight off viruses. So by prioritizing sleep, you’re reducing your susceptibility to all viruses.
  • Make Healthy Choices. Exercising and sticking to a healthy diet can help reduce anxiety and boost the immune system. So while it’s always in your best interest to eat your veggies and make time for cardio, it’s particularly important in times of risk.
  • Wash Up. We know that the Coronavirus is transmitted via respiratory droplets containing the virus. These droplets travel about three feet when someone with the virus sneezes or coughs, so you can become infected by being in their close proximity or touching a surface that’s been contaminated by the droplets. Proper handwashing is the best defense during a viral outbreak—that means washing for 20+ seconds with soap and water or using hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol.

Finally, we should keep in mind that, for most of us, contracting the Coronavirus is not a serious personal threat; it’s the spread of the illness to at-risk patients that causes concern. Indeed, the vast majority of Coronavirus patients thus far have experienced only mild symptoms, and over half have reached full recovery. So I’d say the best thing we can do for ourselves as juncture is to stay calm, stay informed, and stay mindful of the situation.

Stay well,

 

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – March Madness 2020

 

 

You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll say it again—I’m an avid Gamecock fan, and I love most all sports, particularly at the college level. I support and enjoy all of my alma-mater’s sports teams, but I have a confession to make that, as a born-and-raised southerner, may get me in trouble. That is, as much as I love college football, I enjoy college basketball even more—especially when it’s being played Gamecock-style! And so, like my fellow b-ball fans, I’m gearing up for March to roar in like a lion with March Madness 2020!

Currently, our Lady Gamecocks are ranked #1 under the leadership of one of the finest coaches college basketball has ever seen, Dawn Staley. As I’ve mentioned many times in past KellyGrams, I’m also a huge fan of the men’s coach, Frank Martin, and his style of play, his character, and his ability to teach a group of kids from all over the world how to be better teammates and responsible young men. While the Gamecocks’ women’s team is an odds-on favorite to take it all this year, Frank’s team is clinging to hope that a fantastic finish will get them into the Big Dance.

The men’s team kept the hope alive at Colonial Life Arena Wednesday night, where I witnessed one of the most exciting basketball games I’ve seen in quite some time. The teams took their fans on a rollercoaster ride; I thought we were going to win, then was sure we were going to lose—back and forth—all in the period of a minute! Fortunately, the Gamecocks came out on top with a 94 – 90 victory over Georgia, and for all of us in the packed stadium, the game was certainly worth the price of admission. Now, let’s hope our men’s team keeps up the momentum so we can see more of that action during March Madness!

Either way, I’m looking forward to a few weeks of excitement to carry us through the waning days of winter and into the springtime! Let the games begin!

Have a great weekend!

 

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – Get Out and Vote!

 

 

Although I’ve never served in an elected office, I’ve been a political junkie since my early teens. I earned my undergraduate degree in political science and have always followed our nation’s politics closely, and I wholeheartedly believe that we, as Americans, have a civic responsibility to vote. Our government is hardly perfect and, naturally, there will always be issues on which our country’s citizens are divided. Our airwaves, headlines, and dinner table conversations are consumed with political chatter and debate on such issues, but far too many people are eager to voice their complaints and opinions to anyone who will listen without ever voicing them where it counts—at the polls.

Over the years, I’ve heard countless intelligent people explain their decision not to vote with excuses like “my vote doesn’t matter” or “my vote won’t change the outcome,” and it never fails to frustrate me. Approximately 18% of registered voters who rarely or never vote, and 30% of eligible but unregistered nonvoters, do not participate in elections for this very reason. This is not an insignificant number of people, given the low voter turnout in the U.S. In recent elections, about 60% of eligible persons have participated in elections during presidential election years and only 40% or so have voted in midterm elections. An even smaller percentage of the voting-eligible population participates in odd-year, primary, and local elections. If we could collectively shed the misconception that one vote does not matter, voter turnout would increase substantially and almost certainly would impact election outcomes. After all, elections are determined by those who show up to the polls.

Saturday, February 29th is the Democratic Primary in South Carolina and the first of three statewide elections in 2020. While this is a party-specific race, I would urge those of you who have a preference as to the Democratic nominee to consider each of the candidates and take the time to vote next Saturday. Even if you do not plan to participate in the upcoming primary, now is a great time to take a look at South Carolina’s 2020 election schedule, set calendar reminders for upcoming elections, and make transportation arrangements if needed. If you’re not yet registered to vote, you can easily do so online at scvotes.org, where you can also update your voter registration and view your personal voter information, including your precinct location and voting districts.

Remember: your voice matters and your vote matters.  So get out there and vote!

Have a great weekend!

 

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – A Streetcar Named Desire

 

 

For the first time in 18 years, the Tennessee Williams classic, A Street Car Named Desire, has returned to Thigpen Main Stage in celebration of Trustus Theatre’s 35th anniversary. This play was a huge project for Trustus to take on, and the theatre has taken significant measures to ensure that Streetcar’s return is well-received. It even adopted a new look for the occasion—arena-style staging—to create a more immersive and intimate setting where the audience will completely surround the actors as they bring Williams’ iconic characters to life. Based on the rave reviews I’ve been hearing since last Friday’s opening night, there’s no doubt the effort has paid off—Trustus has delivered a riveting production.

A Streetcar Named Desire is a powerful yet dark portrayal of American society in the 1940s that still resonates today. The play’s central character, Blanche DuBois, is a former schoolteacher of wealthy upbringing who, after losing everything, goes to live with her pregnant sister and brother-in-law in their cramped, New Orleans apartment. The story chronicles the friction between the fallen aristocrat and her blue-collar brother-in-law, Stanley, as it escalates into a violent collision-course that ultimately shatters Blanche’s fragile psyche. Through the cataclysmic relationship between Blanche and Stanley, Streetcar speaks to the unfortunately timeless themes and enduring societal issues of violence against women, misogyny, classism, and alienation that are particularly relevant in today’s divisive climate. The Trustus’s aptly-timed revival of A Streetcar Named Desire promises to capture the immediacy of these issues and in a message intended for its contemporary audience.

A Streetcar Named Desire is embedded in American culture and takes on incredibly important topics that transcend generations. But beyond that, the play has tremendous personal significance to me. When Streetcar was originally performed at Trustus 18 years ago, my son, Patrick, took the stage as an actor. Now, he is directing it! Not only has Patrick successfully delivered an extremely challenging production, but he also used it as a platform to drive home poignant social truths. I could not be a prouder father!

The show will be running at Trustus until February 22nd, and tickets can be purchased by calling the Trustus Theatre Box Office at 803-254-9732 or online at trustus.org. Please treat yourself to an evening at Trustus Theatre while you can still catch a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Patrick Michael Kelly!

Have a great weekend!

 

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – A Light in the Dark

 

 

Those of you who read our January KellyGram about Human Trafficking Prevention Month know that the human trafficking industry does not only impact foreign countries and distant states; it is a very real problem here in South Carolina. Because the crime is widely misunderstood, signs of human trafficking too often go unrecognized and unreported. Notwithstanding, last year, the South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force recorded a staggering 678 victims in our state alone.

So how can we, as a community, become involved in the efforts to combat human trafficking? We at Mike Kelly Law Group propose that you begin by joining us at Saluda Shoals on February 29th for the 5th Annual Run for Her Life Glow Run presented by Lighthouse for Life—a Midlands-based nonprofit dedicated to educating the community about human trafficking and helping survivors on their journey to physical, spiritual, and emotional wholeness and restoration.

Lighthouse for Life is hosting this event to raise awareness and funds for its outreach program, and it’s a great opportunity to learn more about how the nonprofit serves the community and how you can get involved—all with the added bonus of having fun and getting some fresh air and exercise! The glow run is family-friendly (and pet-friendly!) and open to everyone from serious runners to young children and parents with strollers…so come glow with us! Help cast a light of hope into the dark reality of human exploitation by registering here.

If you can’t make it to this year’s Run for Her Life event, we encourage you to explore the many ways that you can still support Lighthouse for Life in its mission to educate and restore. Whether it’s inviting speakers to your organization, advocating for policy changes, shopping mindfully, or donating time, funds, or prayers—you can make a difference. For more information on ways you can get involved in the fight against human trafficking, go to https://www.lighthouseforlife.org.

Have a blessed weekend!

 

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – Wins & Losses

 

 

This Sunday, people nationwide—and worldwide—will gather together to watch America’s biggest sporting event of the year: Super Bowl LIV. The diehard Gamecock fan in me is especially excited for this year’s match-up between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, and I can’t decide which team to pull for! On the one hand, we have two Gamecocks on the Kansas City roster: Rashad Fenton and Chris Lammons. On the other, former Gamecock and marquee player, Deebo Samuels, will take the field with the 49ers. At least I know that, regardless of which team I root for and which team wins the championship, Sunday will be a win in the books for USC fans like myself!

I have had sports on the brain more so than usual this week, but despite my excitement for the big game, it’s not anticipation of Super Bowl Sunday or who will win that has my mind abuzz. Like many, my thoughts have been consumed by the events of last Sunday and who we lost. The public sorrow following the untimely deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, last weekend, is palpable. Millions are in mourning over the loss of an idol, mentor, and personal hero, and even folks who do not follow basketball feel the impact of this tragedy. Icons like Kobe Bryant seem invincible in the public eye, and his sudden demise is a shock to the system and a reminder of our own human fragility. Even more so, seeing the devastation that Kobe’s wife and three surviving daughters—and Gianna’s mother and sisters—are facing is simply heartbreaking.

The cloud of grief that has stemmed from the death of an American sports legend will undoubtedly be looming over this weekend’s events. But the global response to Kobe’s passing is an undeniable testament to how sports can unite people from all cultures, backgrounds, and belief systems, even in today’s divisive climate. Rather than dwelling on this loss as we gather together for the Super Bowl, we should be reminded of the wonderful occasion for communion and camaraderie that sporting events present, and seize the opportunity to share precious moments and common ground with our friends and family.

Have a blessed weekend,

 

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – Catch the Comet

 

 

I recently read an article in AARP Magazine (yes, I am eligible for AARP!) about Mayor Steve Benjamin and the transformation of the Comet and public transportation under his leadership. Decades ago, SCE&G operated Columbia’s bus system, but it relinquished that responsibility to the City of Columbia in 2002. Without private funding, the quality of our public transit system declined, and route cuts left many citizens without convenient access to transportation. When Mayor Benjamin took office 2010, he fought for a 1% sales tax increase to pay for transportation projects—a fight he lost. The situation deteriorated further until Steve Benjamin and others rolled up their sleeves and sallied forth, and in 2012, the penny tax to fund Columbia’s transportation projects passed!

Though the tax has led to some controversy, one cannot dispute that our investment in the Comet bus system has proven successful. Between 2012 and 2017, the Comet’s ridership grew by 70%, and today the Comet is thriving. Its service has expanded with new routes—including a route to Lexington and Batesburg-Leesville added just yesterday—and new busses equipped with WiFi. The Comet has even partnered with ride-sharing services to provide discounted fares to individuals traveling to and from the supermarket, ensuring that Columbia’s residents have convenient and affordable access to grocery stores. While the Comet is especially invaluable to anyone without a personal vehicle or driving privileges, all Columbians can and should make use of this resource. Given the rising cost of fuel, overcrowded thoroughfares, and shortage of parking downtown, I suggest we all embrace the Comet and commit to further maximizing the potential of Columbia’s public transport!

Have a great weekend!

 

Mike Kelly

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