Archive for April, 2020

To move forward, look back. #COVIDlessons I didn’t want to learn
April 15, 2020

I’m a part time instructor at a college in BC and City Councillor in a small and charming city. I’m also a mom of two equally delightful and annoying teenage boys. I’m a partner to one, a friend to many (I hope) and a member of what I believe to be the best neighbourhood in British Columbia. Yes, Canoe, I mean you!

My family, my students and our community members have been the focus of my efforts these last few weeks as we’ve moved from normalcy to complete “what the hell just happened” mode. But that taught me a few things.

Mostly, I found that if I was to make a contribution to this crisis I would have to focus on who I was, what skills I have at my disposal, and what good I might be able to do.

And to find that, I had to reach back. Way back. To the stories of my parents who were children in WW2. My dad’s story of VE day when the milk man was drunk and fresh bottles of cream lined the neighbourhood street because the wagon crashed. My mom’s stories of those Christmases where joy was found in hot chocolate and tobogganing on old pieces of carpet down local hills. Of family members who went to war and never came home. They know this pain. And still, they overcame it. We can too.

We have survival DNA pulsing through us. Our sudden ability to make bread or roll out pastry comes to mind. We are the cumulation of everything that has happened before us.

And now, we are called to put that into service because, let’s face it, all things considered, we’ve had it pretty easy so far. Now, we have a job to do. A difficult one. One that defies all that we thought we knew and calls on all that we didn’t know we had in us.

Our job is not to have a stiff upper lip, to be resilient or stoic. That’s bullshit. Forget about that.

Our job is to keep people safe. To remind them that the care they need is there. To convince them that the world will rally around them in the days, weeks, months and years to come. To reach out. To show emotion. To even lose it, as I have been doing from time to time, these last few weeks.

I think Maslow’s theory is more important than ever.  People need to have their basic needs met. Unless and until that is done, we will have learned nothing. And we won’t be able to overcome this otherwise. We are only as strong as our weakest team member. And we need our whole team.

As I sit here in my heated home with a fridge full of food,  my children in their rooms, a car in my driveway, bills and mortgage paid, can I humbly suggest with deep gratitude for my good fortune, that we need to reach beyond our own safe zone if we are to make decisions for and support people who do not have the benefit of our privilege.

Here are my thoughts on how we might do that, in no particular order. Nothing makes much sense these days but some things are becoming very clear.

House the homeless. When people live on the street, we are complicit in their misery and we need to fix that.

Cancel the school year. Ask teachers to spend the rest of the year making sure students are ok and reminding them they will be together again come September. That is the most important learning that will come of this.

Commit to a basic living wage. It’ll be cheaper in the long run. Poverty is expensive, punitive, unnecessary and humiliating.

Hire those who have medical degrees from other countries. Enough of our selective trust in the training and expertise of people outside our borders and the exorbitant fees they pay to join “our” club.

Ban for profit “senior care” facilities. And reinvent what the golden years look like. Goddamn, we’re ignorant when it comes to honouring the people who got us where we are.

Keep investing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). We are a small educated country in a sea of countries that would trade their spot for ours in a heart beat. 

Continue to welcome refugees and provide international aid. It’s not just who we are, it’s why why we are who we are.

Don’t give up on climate justice. It’s not top of mind. But a pandemic has a way of showing us that we need the earth more than it needs us.

Recognize that partisanship is f’ing useless. Really, it is. It divides, it creates doubt (it raises money, however – shame on that). But it will NOT get us through this or anything else for that matter. To those who seek headlines instead of offering help, history will be very unkind to you, And you will have to wear that. It’s not to late to change course. It never is.

Protect the vulnerable you can’t see. They might be closer than you think. There are vulnerable young adults being lured to the dark side, the sex trade, the drug trade and the gang world. Why? Because sometimes grown ups pay too much attention to what they think they want and not enough time on what really matters. Connection. Relationship. Care. Compassion. Understanding. Check in on your kids and their friends. Ironically, this pandemic might well save a few families from a much worse fate. Others, I fear, will be lost. I carry that worry for reasons I will not share here.

Reject convenience. You do not need to buy crap packaged food. You can totally bake a meatloaf or make your own salad dressing. Reject it because convenience is your frenemy. Really, it is. You have time now. Use it wisely.

And finally, this is a critical and likely the most difficult part of this whole conversation. Do not put your need to do good so you can feel good ahead of what needs to be done. You may want to donate canned goods to food banks or your “extra stuff” to people in need. I’m sorry. That’s about your needs. Not theirs. If you really want to help (and I believe that you do), donate what you can to registered, approved and licensed non-profits. They are the boots on the ground experts and know exactly what is needed. Now is not the time to put your need to feel good above the safety of those who cannot be put at risk. So long as they are at risk, so are we. We’re a human eco-system. If COVID 19 had not taught you that, you’re not paying attention. And you need to pay attention.

“Donner son surplus, ce n’est pas donner. Pour donner, il faut donner son necessaire.” To give that which you have extra is not really giving. To give, you must go without.

My goodness, we have so much to learn and while my suggestions are random, know that they come from a place of love and exploration of what it really means to be a human, on this planet, at this time. Our time.

If you’re struggling, as I have been, please reach out. We only have each other. And if that’s the only lesson we learn from this, honestly, it will have come at a terrible, tragic and traumatic loss. It seems we like to learn the hard way. We can change that. We can start today. Wash your hands. And gaze at the stars. They remind us of our place in the world. We are small. But we can light up the world if we so choose.

Amities,

Louise xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not supposed to be this way
April 9, 2020

Today was the last day of “classes” for my students. I am a part time professor at a local college and we haven’t had face to face classes for three weeks. On the eve of Easter Weekend, I find myself heartbroken. I’m normally quite resilient but it hit me. There will be no good bye and no good luck. No high fives. No hand shakes and no hugs.

I don’t think I knew until today how much I miss them. Before COVID 19, they were a task to master. To get them through the course work. To see through bullshit and excuses. To recognize genuine need. To foster curiosity and connection. To inspire excellence. To remind them that the world needs them more than it needs the rest of us.

I knew the day I took my textbooks and files home that I wouldn’t be back at my college, the office I shared, the classrooms they knew, or the seats that they claimed. I miss their expressions. I even miss their distractions. I miss the conversations, the laughs, the disagreements and the questions that would leave me speechless.

Education, it seems to me, is an eco-system. And when we are all suddenly removed from that environment, everything changes. I can teach you. At least I hope I can. But what’s missing for me is how much students teach teachers.

I don’t remember having these connections with my own professors – standing way out front – in a hall of 300 people. I didn’t matter. They didn’t know me. They didn’t know my story. They didn’t even know my name. They knew my student number. End of.

But in a small college, you get to know these kids. You call them by their first name. They call me by mine. It’s not a glamorous job. I’m not doing amazing research that will change the world we live in. I’m just Louise, teaching another chapter of another book and looking for that spark of interest, of engagement, of curiosity. But when you find it, the world lights up.

My world has gone a bit dark today and my students are truly more resilient than I am. In e-mail exchanges, most messages started with “how are you and how is your family”? Ugly cry time.

I start marking next week. I might yet find the mojo I need to rally back. I’ll get them through. As for me, I’m not sure I’ll recover. It’s not supposed to be this way.

I have such meaningful memories of my days in university. My friends, our adventures, our safe space together, our stories, our secrets. The trust that has lasted all these years. The time we had to say a proper goodbye when our time was done. This year’s class has been robbed of this by no fault of their own.

I can’t begin to know how we make it up to them, but we must. Some how, some way, some day.

It’s up to them now but, more than ever, they will need our support and love. And if you’re one of my students, past or present, know that I love, support and believe in you.

Louise