I remember clearly when President Clinton appointed Justice Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, as I was just beginning my doctoral studies. While she was not the first female Supreme Court Justice, her ascension represented the breaking of a glass ceiling (I also naively imagined by the time I’d finish my Ph.D., the challenges women face juggling work and family would be ironed out!). But despite coming to terms with the too-slow rate of positive change, I did find myself inspired by and replicating some of her virtues: hard work, a life partner who would support my ambition and not be threatened by my success, and a commitment to mentorship and to service.
As we take a moment to appreciate where we have been, I think we must state the truth: that persistent racial inequities in myriad institutions in society are the result of systemic racism, and independent schools are not exempt. We charge tuition and can have practices that benefit those with financial resources. I believe we must use our position of privilege to redouble on our efforts to identify and address injustice both inside and outside our community and commit to embracing antiracism as a guiding tenet of our work.
Yesterday morning I hiked to the top of a peak in the Santa Monica mountains. After spending this past week facing a wall in my bedroom office, helplessly following the news while working on wrapping up this school year and scenario planning for next year, I needed to see the horizon and a broader panorama in order to reflect in and synthesize the wide-ranging feelings and thoughts that had collected during this agonizing week. This morning, I am looking at a very different panorama, and I am shaken by the images of rage, pain, and destruction that we all are seeing in our beloved city and cities across the nation.
When we cannot stop where we are and address feelings in the moment, they tend to come out sideways as emotions or actions far removed from the original feeling. They can show up as a grumpy spouse who snaps at a simple request, a call from a teacher when your child has an outburst in class, your own lack of patience with co-workers or friends. By the time the feeling has become an expressed emotion, you may not be able to find your way back to the source. As parents, modeling calm, approaching emotions with curiosity, and giving yourself and your children permission to feel will go a long way toward reducing anxiety. These life-long, invaluable skills lay the groundwork for the courage, flexibility, and compassion we will require to re-envision our world as a better, more equitable, more beautiful place.
Let kindness in this moment—each moment—guide your actions and orient your mindset. I long for the day we can show goodness to each other in person again. In the meantime, I am comforted to see the many ways we are managing to make profound connections with one another—in our community and with the larger world—despite the distance.
This was not how it was supposed to go... yet here we are. We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re already doing it better than we did last week. We don’t know how to stay connected and apart, but we have so many more opportunities and inspirations than we did just a few days ago. We are getting better at talking to our kids. Each day we tolerate feeling uncertain and afraid. We are doing the things we thought we could not do.
We generally go through life with predictable routines and familiar expectations as our default version of reality. We work hard to hold on to the familiar and generally succeed. But at some point or another, we are thrust out of this comfortable place and life as we know it drastically changes. When this happens, we feel groundless, unanchored. It can feel terrifying, but it can also create spaces for wisdom, for new ways of looking at the world unburdened by the ways in which we have previously interpreted it.
This last week has certainly changed the way we live our lives, and it is natural to have mixed feelings about the chaos that swirls around us and the lightening-speed alterations we have made to our natural rhythms. For many, anxiety, fear, and resentment predominate—but we can find hope, joy, and meaning in this crisis if we choose to look.
If we, as adults, are feeling a bit inundated by the swiftly changing influx of information related to COVID-19, certainly our children are also picking up on the news. Children are perceptive. Younger children may not be privy to details, yet when they see upset parents, they nonetheless pick up on general feelings of concern. Older children who do understand what they hear on the news are likely discussing this with each other as a way of processing. And while adults have the wisdom and experience to filter the news for importance and accuracy, our children are still learning these skills, so may be more susceptible to feeling fear or repeating inaccuracies.
Caring for vulnerable people (and make no mistake: we are all vulnerable) is the ultimate act of kindness, and it can serve as a model for our ethics and our politics, if we will let it. People loved Kobe because he cared. And I have seen proof of this around campus this week—students of all ages wearing their Bryant jerseys, the #24 sketched carefully in notebooks and folders, conversations on the field during recess, and in the incredibly touching memorial our Middle School students organized last Friday. We need more sources of cohesion, in our culture and our communities, that stitch us together across fractured lines of disagreement.