Lead in the time of Covid

By: Jennifer Dayton

In this time of a pandemic, many of us have reluctantly adopted a new mode of living, distancing ourselves from gatherings of friends, colleagues, neighbors and even extended family. It is unnatural and a strain on relationships among high-mobility, high-octane people unused to confinement. Social distancing is equally challenging to those living alone or with any kind of illness, as isolation becomes a frightening and indefinite reality. We cannot fail to see how critical is our charitable social safety network in Greenwich, sending constant messages of concrete support.

We are unique in evolutionary history, in having sophisticated survival adaptations, enabled only by increasing capacities for cooperation. Never before in my lifetime has a cooperative response been more important and I am optimistic that a collective sense of social responsibility will end this crisis, not through the leadership of figureheads, but through small individual acts of putting others before ourselves.

Many of us are at the age when we try to lead our elderly parents, as well as our grown children and their networks to stay out of harm’s way. We persuade, cajole and offer alternatives to normal activities. We lead in countless other ways as neighbors, whether it’s cooperating on the resurfacing of shared driveways, helping out with deliveries, locating wandering pets or just offering solidarity.

No one adapts to social distancing better than my twenty-somethings. A large part of every day they exploit technology to solidify relationships. All they apparently need, other than health and love, is a home wireless network. Interpersonal connections are channeled through FaceTime, allowing hours of conversation among a group of friends, who are all at home doing different things. Sharing screens, they easily create virtual theaters and watch the same movies together.

In many ways, our children have shown us the way, easily adapting to the new reality and turning anxiety into mutual support and deepening friendships. I am amazed by the capacity of young people to rally together, but what is even more impressive is the dedicated and transformative work by teachers to cooperatively harness technology to make the keep continuous learning alive. Disruption is bound to lead to innovation by individual leadership of talented educators. Through the foresight of the Board of Education, digital learning is firmly rooted in Greenwich.

As I watch Spring arrive, I turn to nature for reassurance that the forest will not remain a stockade of brown wood. The sap will run and the sunlight will soon filter through a canopy of green leaves, helping us to breathe.

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