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When a pandemic brings change, chaplain tells employees to consider ‘Green Eggs and Ham’

Change is the only constant in life.
― Heraclitus

And the past four months have delivered plenty. Where better to turn for some lessons in coping than Dr. Seuss’s well-known book, “Green Eggs and Ham.”

You read that right. It’s one of the stories, though non-biblical, that Pastor John Warden with Corporate Care has used recently while sharing weekly devotionals with employees at SDN Communications.

The premise of the story is simple — the narrator adamantly does not want to try green eggs and ham. He is repeatedly asked to do so by his friend, Sam I Am. Eventually (spoiler alert), he relents and to his amazement, learns that he does indeed like green eggs and ham.

While Dr. Seuss's books are for children, this simple message of trying something new — and learning that you may like it — is a great reminder for all ages, Warden said.

Changes in the way SDN staff have been working due to COVID-19 have also affected how Warden can serve them. Warden joined the SDN team in September 2019 as an added benefit to employees by providing on-site pastoral care and short-term counseling.

When many SDN staff members began working remotely in mid-March, Warden continued his services, initially using email to connect with employees. In working with Director of Human Resources Amy Preator, Warden has been able to continue his outreach to employees — which is perhaps more important than ever in these unprecedented times with unprecedented levels of stress, he said.

mocked up teams meeting with Pastor John Warden
Pastor John Warden | Corporate Care

Warden started his role with SDN by making rounds throughout the office to touch base with employees. He also had an onsite office that allowed for private conversations. Technology has enabled Warden to continue his service to SDN staff. Weekly devotionals take place each Thursday afternoon via Microsoft Teams calls and Warden is available for video chats, texts, emails, and calls as needed.

“It takes a while to build relationships and to build trust. I’m glad I had those six months in place to build some of those relationships,” Warden said.

He said the initial messages he’s shared were focused on trusting God, fear, anxiety, stress — topics that were relevant to the world’s current situation. Many of the conversations Warden has had with employees these last few months have addressed concerns such as educating children from home, anxiety about the future, dealing with isolation, and the fear of getting sick. These are all normal reactions, Warden said.

While Warden is Christian and he shares messages from that viewpoint, he stresses that people don’t have to follow the same religion for him to be a resource for staff.

“I’m there to support employees through personal issues or the challenges they face through work — not every conversation goes to the Bible. These conversations do branch into deeper things,” Warden said. “Even someone with very different beliefs (than me) can still benefit from someone encouraging and supporting them.”

Lately, Warden’s messages have been broader than COVID-19, including stories about people in the Bible and the things they’ve gone through. And yes, that includes finding profound lessons in simple stories like “Green Eggs and Ham.” He’s grateful for the opportunity to serve the employees, to celebrate their joys and milestones, and to be a resource when there are struggles.

Warden quoted statistics that nationwide, 69 percent of employees say work is a significant source of their stress and that 51 percent said they were less productive at work as a result of stress. Warden says the fact that someone is a part of their team whose sole purpose is to encourage and support employees can make a huge impact on employee satisfaction and reducing job stress.

“I hear almost weekly, ‘thanks for taking the time,’” he said. “Our role has changed from face-to-face to more digital, but we are still a great resource for any company that sees the need for coming alongside and supporting and caring for employees in a better way. I think we’re seeing that there’s a great benefit for the employees.”

SDN is a leader in providing business internet, private networking and cloud connectivity to businesses and organizations in communities such as Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Worthington, and the surrounding areas.