"When I becomes we, even illness becomes wellness.” Charles Roppel
My grandson always loved giving me high-fives. That stopped during COVID. When I reached to clap his hand one day, he remonstrated me. “Remember the virus, Grandma!” I wonder if this kind of heightened empathy with the needs of others has to evaporate once COVID ends. Over the last year and a half, the Meher Schools community – staff, parents, and children – have taken an accelerated course in caring about each other.
We began the pandemic with community Zoom meetings about ways to move forward together.
Amazingly, one of the first things parents thought about when COVID hit hard was “What about the teachers?” A group of parents organized what was to be our first-ever school-wide fundraising campaign. The money they raised allowed us to pay our teachers while the school was closed, a time when many schools were laying their teachers off.
Then there was the creation of a Zoom learning structure for elementary and preschool students practically overnight. This challenging process also provided a window of understanding. Parents and teachers got to see each other struggle, empathize with the others’ frustration, and collaborate to make it work.
Alongside that, there was the constant reporting of COVID exposures. Often when there was a worrisome situation, it was because someone had violated our Staying Healthy guidelines and then suddenly realized “Oh no!” – they had put their bubble at risk. This was a period of high anxiety and stress for everyone.
Last year psychologist Wendy Ritchey and I led a Zoom support group called “Creating the New Normal.” Teachers and parents participated together, hearing about each others’ feelings of isolation, fear, and gratitude. Over weeks, a beautiful fabric of caring developed. We decided that the new normal should include a commitment by everyone to check in with each other and offer mutual support wherever it’s needed.
Last February, right before the pandemic fully hit, we held an in-person symposium with over 100 attendees on compassion with Dr. Carol Weyland Conner, the founder of White Pony Express, as a speaker. Her presentation highlighted that the true meaning of compassion is taking action to help others. For example, this generation of children will grow up with the understanding that the simple act of wearing a mask will help others. From that, more awareness can flow.
This year let’s build an even stronger Meher Schools community, in which every person feels included. Let’s start by welcoming new people and asking what support, teachers, parents, and children need in these first days and throughout the year to make sure everyone flourishes.