Friday Letter

April 24, 2020

Dear Parents,

I hope you enjoyed the Movie night last Saturday.  I heard from several parents that there was, coincidentally, an article in the New York Times about Groundhog Day as a good movie for our present times! 

We will hold Prefect elections next week.  I will be talking to our students next week in our All-School Meeting about the importance of these elections and the work of student leadership. 

As noted in the email from Ms. Lawrence this week, we have suspended the community service hour requirement for this year.  There is an opportunity here, as Ms. Lawrence suggested, to remind students about the true nature of service in our lives.  Aside from the dramatic heroism in the work of the medical profession (shout-out to our parents who do this work!), the staff of service organizations looking after people without resources, and others who are providing the most urgent of essential labor, there are also daily opportunities to support neighbors, friends, and family.  Unlike many households where we endure--err, I mean, ENJOY--the company of siblings and children for 24 hours a day, there are single-child households with parents absent due to work.  As I told students on Wednesday, this can be a time when online social platforms can shrug off their more pernicious history and become a vehicle for connection and reassurance.  I encouraged each student to imagine how reaching out to a lonely classmate could make a real difference.  Maybe the idea of doing so is more attractive and less awkward than the actual act of such communication, but I think it is worthwhile to reinforce this kind of awareness in students.  The best community service for most of us right now may be simple acts of kindness and finding the opportunities to "see" one another.

In his book Walden, Henry David Thoreau talks about how most people are not truly awake and subsequently do not really grasp the value of life and the precious nature of a single day.  You would think that COVID-19 would be a pretty dramatic reminder of what is real, and yet, thanks to constant work, the periodic making of meals, the sense of global uncertainty about the future, and the apparent disregard that the natural world in spring has about our puny human problems, I find myself bumbling through the day, distracted by the daily rhythm and with only occasional moments of realization, like psychological indigestion.  In those moments, I say to myself, "Woh.  This is really happening."  And then I go back to work!

We are living in a time of anxiety and a new appreciation for our mortality, whether that awareness is acute or a low hum throughout our days.  Nonetheless, when the weather is good and I can get out for a quick walk and can see a parent watching their child play in the yard and can see and feel the natural world opening up to a new season, I am reminded that life is powerful and pushes forward in the face of all obstacles.  Despite our present fears, our various challenges and losses, and our shared uncertainty about when we will retrieve the freedoms and habits we take for granted, there is no question that we will endure, discover joys and new perspective along the way, and eventually arrive at a time when we will thrive.  Family continues.  Friendship continues.  Learning continues.

I do hope that all of you can find time this weekend to enjoy the little pleasures of life, whether that is sunshine, a morning cup of coffee, a sheet of fresh-baked cookies, the familiar noise of family, or precious moments of quiet with a book or just with your own thoughts.  Life is happening right now.

Take care and stay well,

Dr. Schawang