I was simply talking to a colleague about opening school, laying out ways in which it is best to welcome our beloved students back on campus in a time of an unwavering pandemic. And I was using my minds eye to picture kids coming in and where they would have to go. Tears surprised me just as much as they probably surprised my colleague. I could not keep them at bay. I hung up and just sobbed.
Yesterday morning I was watching the closing speech of the US Democratic convention. Joe Biden finished his speech and images of people in their homes came up on a screen, in the now proverbial Zoom boxes, clapping and cheering and showing support. A physically distanced support. Joe Biden and his team stepped outside of the building and into a huge parking lot where people, in their cars were honking, blinking their car lights, waving flags out the window. Fireworks. And sobs. In my kitchen. Mine.
I was showing a family around the other day, basking in the joy of two young children jumping up and down for the joy of seeing our books, toys, gym and inside fountain. I remember I was talking when the little girl just tiptoed behind me and … grabbed my hand. Just to hold. Her tiny little hand into mine, telling me clearly, I trust you, I like you, I feel good here. And I was so startled, barely keeping myself from withdrawing my hand. Only a year ago I would have squatted down and given her a warm embrace. Now I smiled behind my mask and I said to the parents, “don’t worry, I have washed and disinfected my hands.” To which they politely responded “not to worry, so did she.” I cried later, alone in my office.
Make no mistake, welcoming our students back to school will be amazing. We have missed them so much. For the past half a year we have been working in a building, not a school for it is their laughter, their mischief, their giggles and cries that make it a school. I used to sit in my office located in the main lobby and just listen to the sounds of the building and immerse myself in that energy. Over the past six months it has been just silence, voices of adults yelling something to one another – it is so hard to hear yourself over that damn, blessed mask – and the beep, beep of the thermal scanner showing that someone needs to go back out and hope their temperature is ok.
And also, make no mistake, having our kids around will be brutal. Not only will we not be able to reach out and hold their hands, embrace them when they cry, cuddle for a read, what is even more dramatic for them, they will not be able to do that with their friends. I worry about the emotional toll this will take on all of us. I worry about humanity turning cold.
Someone once told me that the end of the world will come when the path from neighbour to neighbour will disappear. Are we there?
… what are the ways in which we will double down on other types of connection when a simple embrace or holding someone’s hand have become a threat?