Uniting Around Shared Values in Challenging Times

By: Molly King

April in New England has long been the pivot point for leaving winter behind and embracing the hope and renewal that is spring. The crocuses on the hill by the Second Congregational Church in Greenwich are one of the first tangible signs, followed by the daffodils along North Street and all over the Greenwich Academy campus. More than ever, these gifts from nature are needed as we grapple daily with the demands brought on by COVID-19.

Like Greenwich Academy, schools all over Greenwich and across the state are currently engaged in distance learning and the rapid preparation required for academic instruction has left little time to consider the bigger life lessons at hand. While the challenges are readily apparent, much like the bright yellow daffodils dotting the landscape, I’ve seen a reemergence of shared values, including:

• The importance of community: We need to feel connected to each other. A significant focus of GA’s preparation and execution of distance learning has been around creating virtual mechanisms to sustain community. It’s Zoom meetings with small groups of faculty and students. It’s taped video messages emailed to students in lieu of assemblies. It’s the directive from senior and school president, Emily, to send a message to “those people you only say hi to in school. Make sure they’re okay. Tell them you’re thinking of them.” Small acts of kindness make a big difference. That’s how we create community and all of us can do that in our own lives.

• Our fundamental humanity: We all want to be purposeful and make a difference. We can do that from home, and we’ve shared this with our students. FaceTime a grandparent or older neighbor who might be feeling isolated. Help a younger sibling with their homework. Help your parents with the new reality of work/life balance. As a school, we are grateful for opportunities to share our humanity, including donating our remaining food to the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport and surgical gloves to Greenwich Hospital.

• Our growing courage and character: Dr. Brené Brown is a renowned psychologist, author, and speaker whose extensive research focuses on human behavior and emotion. I loved what she said during a recent interview on 60 Minutes about finding and generating much-needed courage at this challenging time when many feel vulnerable: “Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s the only path to courage. Give me a single example of courage that does not require uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. No one, in 50,000 people, not a person has been able to give me an example of courage that did not include those things. There is no courage without vulnerability.”

As parents, educators, and fellow citizens, we all want to model courage for ourselves, our loved ones, and most especially, our children. Dr. Brown’s research-based findings give us space for our feelings of vulnerability so that we can take ownership of our emotions and opt-in for courage.

We’re moving through a period that necessitates physical distance from each other, but we can counter the inherent challenges by each playing our part. Express our love for our community by reaching out to others virtually; express our humanity by seeking ways to make a difference; and feel reassured that our feelings of anxiety and vulnerability can be a positive step towards greater courage and stronger character. Embracing these life lessons is a collective learning process that can benefit all.