The Value of Small Gestures

 

student_pajamas_virtual learning
This is how many kids are doing online learning during Covid days.

The end of this most unusual school year is finally upon us. Today was my last day of online tutoring . For the past five weeks I worked with students who bravely engaged with me through computer screens   Navigating through all this involved both huge challenges and delights. Along with hundreds of thousands of teachers and students, I learned two basic facts this spring: 1) we can teach and learn virtually–even with young children it is possible; and 2) it’s not nearly as much fun or satisfying to do school through computer screens (although it is nice to wear pajamas to school every day).

Society en masse experiencing shelter-at-home and safer-at-home orders has forced us to reconcile the lifestyle we all took for granted with a new way of living—apart physically, yet finding the most creative and innovative ways to still be together and connect human to human. We’ve had to be flexible and adaptable on the fly, and on all levels—mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional. In my case, the emotional level has felt most extreme. Days and nights have been wide emotional pendulums, from feeling steady, happy, and even joyful at moments, to later in the day dipping down into anxiety, fear, and loneliness. We’re undergoing a grand human experiment of learning resilience in the face of adversity, and of experiencing grace under unprecedented pressure.

Through online tutoring, I observed that the kids adapted to the lockdown situation with surprising agility and often much less drama than many adults in the room. The biggest hardship for children, I’d guess, is their highly restricted social time with friends and limited opportunities for physical exercise. Teaching academic subjects is challenging enough through a screen; how PE teachers manage it is nearly incomprehensible.

Saying goodbye to my students, who are all between 7 and 9 years old, was an internal process that took many days. I realized anew how hard it is to say goodbye to people I grew fond of, and all the more so because of their innocence and vulnerability. The biggest learning for me during the past six months is that a caring adult can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Small gestures matter greatly—the few minutes that you give to really listen to a child so they can express what’s in their mind and heart will give them self confidence and trust in you.

This spring has shown many of us the value of small gestures. It has shone a spotlight on people that many of us casually take for granted—now deemed essential to the running of society. I believe that teachers, tutors, paraprofessionals, and school staff members are included in the group of essential workers for society. Although some parents and family members may disagree, I would argue that a child’s school community is a critically important part of their life, and what they experience within their school will either enhance their self-worth, intellectual, emotional, and social capacities, or do the opposite. Society as a whole must continue to support their local public education system, and not let corporate money interests dictate how the system is run.

As a last gift, I shared this music video with my students today. It’s an old song, and still sounds so good. I hope it brings a smile and few dance steps to your body, mind, heart, and soul.

 

 

Looking for silver linings during the pandemic

 

cloud-silver-lining
image via https://www.flickr.com

Hello again, Dear Readers! I’ve been laying low during the past weeks of lockdown, like so many of you across the planet. One the one hand, it’s been difficult to find words to express all that I’ve been thinking and feeling during the past several weeks. On the other, I hardly know where to begin to articulate all the emotions, observations and insights that have flowed consistently through my soul.

Such paradoxical times we are living through right now! As Dickens once famously wrote, “the best of times, the worst of times” seems to sum it up in broad terms. The news cycle continues to find every detail and nuance of the pandemic to report on, to the near exclusion of everything else. Not a healthy emotional diet to subject myself to, so I’ve started limiting the amount of Covid 19 news I can stomach in a day.

Now that spring has arrived here in Colorado’s Front Range and May is nearly upon us, the energy has shifted. People are outside much more, despite the stay-at-home order still in place. The lovely park near my home was filled with folks exercising in imaginative ways as they enjoyed the balmy spring temperatures. Many of us are by now simply wishing to get on with our regular lives, go back to the routines and work/school life we all relied on, and have the nightmare of Covid 19 get behind us. Yet, we are still in the middle of the crisis that has touched everyone in one way or another.

Working as a literacy tutor this school year, I, along with tens of thousands of other educators around the US have had a steep learning curve on how to hold virtual classes with students. I am very lucky to be working at a school district that already had many resources in place for virtual learning. Through the support of my wonderful coach and the whole team at Colorado Reading Corps, some of us have been able to transition to online tutoring. It was an extraordinary and joyous moment when I first saw my students’ faces and heard their sweet voices again after a month of lockdown with no contact. One of several miracles I’ve experienced during these stressful days.

I am looking for silver linings now, no matter how small or subtle. Gifts of this time include: the quiet of my inner city neighborhood and closing of certain streets, giving pedestrians and bicyclists the luxury of space to walk and ride on normally congested roads; an appreciation of the vastly improved air quality in town and clear skies for stargazing at night; time to simply be—to meditate, pray, dream, nap, and relax; the general slowdown of human life on Earth, enabling our precious Mama Gaia to take a necessary breath and begin to heal from the constant destruction inflicted upon her by nearly 8 billion human souls.

A beautiful example of a silver lining hidden within the crisis comes from NPR this weekend. They ran a story about a migrant worker from Nepal, who with tens of thousands of others, ended up stuck at the Northern Indian border during the lockdown. Unable to return home, the migrants were sheltering at a school converted into a temporary camp. But, unlike many people who become stranded at borders, these migrant workers were lucky to have some selfless teachers there to help teach them literacy skills. One man, Pratap Singh Bora, now in his mid-50s, had never learned to write or read as a child or youth. He had never learned to write his own name. But during the past weeks at the border camp, a teacher taught him, along with other workers who were also illiterate, the Hindi alphabet and basics of reading. Now, for the first time in this man’s life, he is able to write his own name. (read the full story here)

A huge silver lining to the Covid 19 pandemic is that it is showing all of us, in high relief, the areas of our common society that are sorely in need of radical shifts. The problems, and their potential solutions, have been in plain sight for years. Yet, the pandemic and emergency measures that have been put into place have exposed vast inequalities in such an extreme way that it is impossible to continue to ignore them in the same ways as before. It has shown the public how vital having a social safety net is, just how vital essential service workers truly are, and how taken for granted they have been by the rest of us. It has shown even more starkly, how broken our government system is at the federal level. Eventually, the pandemic will lessen and life will return to its usual bustling pace. But, life will not, cannot, return to how it was before the coronavirus time. This pandemic is changing all of us in ways we can’t yet know.

Record these days in whatever ways you can, Dear Readers. These days, weeks and months of 2020 are epic and life-changing for humanity as a whole. Notice all the silver linings in your own lives and celebrate every single one. Although we cannot yet hug each other because of social distancing, we can still smile while acknowledging our common joys and sorrows.

The light of love within us

 

Be_the-Light
image via KatieDaisy

 

“We need to resonate with another collective field within us, one that is much deeper than fear – a field that is still hidden at the moment. It’s the collective field of trust, the matrix of life, which Dieter Duhm refers to as the “sacred matrix.” For, despite all the suffering, all the horrors of the past and all the threats, life is still oriented towards joy, curiosity and survival. There is a core within us that knows this. This core is called trust.”  –Leila Dregger, The Esperanza Project

Today I tidied up my gmail inbox. Mail from many of the organizations that I am subscribed to showed me how suddenly life on Earth has changed. In the space of a couple months (and in America just about 4 hyper-real weeks), we’ve gone from looking at the distant storm clouds with some worry, to standing, sitting or lying directly under the mother of all storms. We are collectively watching (and for those who are ill, directly experiencing) the tempest as it rains down upon us. Apocalyptic and prophetic in proportions, the coronavirus and its fallout is affecting everyone on Earth, and we will be forever changed as a result of this time.

By now, many authors have written about this crisis from a myriad of perspectives. Depending on one’s ideological, moral, religious and political perspectives, this pandemic can be seen as the end of the world, or a great personal tragedy of health, wealth and all things good and pleasant. For others, it is being hailed as the Great Wake-Up Call for humanity; The Moment we’ve been waiting for as humanity pushes the reset button on the way we’ve been living and methodically destroying our planet. Looked at from this prism lens takes the ability to step way back from your own, personal life view, and instead see the big picture of Earth and humanity’s evolution as a species. I’d like to suggest that this largest perspective, although difficult to wrap one’s head around, is the most beneficial view to take as we move forward.

Yet, I humbly acknowledge it is easier said than done. Getting above the fear, anxiety and even hysteria of this current moment of our evolution is a Herculean task. I am personally beset with doubts and fears, as well as moments of despair as I hear the relentless newstream of mortality rates and untold suffering. The bottom line seems to be: there is literally no way out of this, except to walk nobly through every moment of human suffering that we are collectively experiencing with our heads held high; our faith in ourselves and in our divinity as strong as it has ever been.

Dear Readers, I imagine each of you are going through your own version of questioning, worrying, anxiety, fear and pain during this extreme period of coronavirus. I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and feelings about it. I’d like to remind you again that for this we were born—it is for the express purpose of raising up the collective consciousness of humanity that we have come to Earth in this age. Many souls are now leaving the planet, and many more are coming to reinforce and bring the new age of Gaia into manifestation. It is not incorrect to embrace this moment as a Great Purge of old energy, an enormous clearing of darkness, power and control programs that have resided within humanity for countless eons of time. The excellent news is that we are finally at the tipping point, the moment when we collectively decide Enough! We are done with grossly unfair living conditions for the vast majority of society across the planet. We will no longer stand for a tiny percentage of humans hoarding nearly all the wealth and power of Earth’s treasures for their own selfish ends. We, The People of Earth/Gaia, are declaring, throughout all lands, that this crisis moment when many are sickened and some are dying, is heralding in The Time of Enlightenment for eons to come. From this horrific place of pain and suffering, we actually have the amazing opportunity to change our entire planet’s operating system in earnest. The lessons inherent in the pandemic are here for all to plainly embrace. People must be cared for by society as a whole. We can no longer look away and pretend things are okay when they are so clearly broken. We are broken at the bottom, and from this place of brokenness we can build a human society that actually works for everyone. We have all the tools and ingenuity we need to do it. Up until now, we have sorely lacked the political will. But the coronavirus, which is nothing more than a packet of RNA wrapped up in a film of fat so small it is invisible to the human eye, is crowning us with a vast opportunity for a new operating system for us all.

Don’t let cynicism and denial prevent you from dreaming into this vision. In these weeks and months, people everywhere are awakening and seeing (perhaps for the first time in their lives) that this dream for an equitable, clean, and healthy world is not only possible, but that we can and must make it become real. Look how quickly everything changed in the world during the past two months!  WE DON’T HAVE TO RETURN TO BUSINESS-AS-USUAL EVER AGAIN. This pandemic is showing us there is a more beautiful world within our reach. A world based on the principles of love, compassion and fairness. Let us not lose the momentum for real, lasting change.  I leave you with a prayer I heard today,

Fear is not real. I rest in the light of Divine Love,

and that is the only Truth I embrace.

May the Light of Love rise up within My Heart,

and the Hearts of All Humanity.