Thursday evening was my daughter’s back to school night. This was a different back to school night because it was all on-line. It was set up so that every 15 minutes we were invited to “move” from one period of study to the next by closing a zoom group meeting that was hosted by the teacher for that particular period at school, and opening the next zoom meeting for the next period’s teacher. We were sent a list of the zoom links for each of our child’s classes. Unfortunately the links to the zoom rooms that the parents were sent all required passcodes, none of which were sent.
To say the least, then, it was an interesting evening. We had been invited to start the evening with a zoom meeting with the principal. That room was accessible and did not require passcodes. So, as each parent discovered that they were unable to get into their child’s zoom classrooms, they returned to this zoom room. The principal’s zoom room had all of us permanently muted. So different parents were writing signs and holding them up for all of us to read. The signs said things like, “This is what our kids are experiencing every day” and “This is why our kids need to actually be on campus”. Personally, I disagree with that second sign and I don’t understand this perspective. I would much rather have my child struggling to learn in a new way (after all, that is learning, too and isn’t that what school is about?) than to risk my child being exposed to a deadly and highly contagious disease. But I seem to be in the minority in this perspective.
Of course, the school was on top of the problem fairly quickly. And so we were able to connect to most of my daughter’s classes. The school immediately sent out emails to all the parents apologizing and begging for our compassion and patience. That was not hard for me to give. These are hard times, we are all struggling to make our way through new ways of doing things, new ways of connecting. We are learning new technology and sometimes it doesn’t work for us in the ways we expect or hope. I know how to contact my child’s teachers and if there is an issue, I can just reach out directly. While I was unable then to hear a couple teacher presentations, I do not feel that I have missed vital information that will change the course of my daughter’s future irrevocably for the worse. This was a small inconvenience and the school dealt with it as quickly and as efficiently as could be expected. Mistakes happen. We all make them.
But I have since heard that not all parents were as compassionate or as patient. While this, too, baffles me at some level, I again have been made aware that this shouldn’t surprise me at all since the anger, rage and attacks are happening in so many different situations and places. We know that one of the real problems of social media is that people feel emboldened to say cruel and hateful things through social media that they would never dare to say to others in person. People are not held accountable and they rant and rave on social media in ways that would be seen as extremely childish if it were done in person. Relationships are permanently damaged through social media then because of the things people feel free to type, things that they would never say to a person’s face because they would see the hurt, see the pain they were causing and would then find gentler and better ways to speak their truth if they chose to speak at all.
But now, we only have these distant ways of communicating. We are no longer talking directly to people, no longer seeing the faces of those we are injuring in person, no longer forced to talk to those with whom we disagree because it is so much easier to just refuse to answer the phone, to choose to ignore the email, to pretend the other doesn’t exist. We could never do this if we were in the same places at the same time. But we can and do do this now. 90% of communication is non-verbal. But we no longer have these non-verbal cues to help us to be the sane adults we are called to be. And as a result, people’s daily behavior is deteriorating at a very rapid rate.
As always then, my question is where do we go from here? I remind all of us to work a little harder for compassion. Try to remember that we are all struggling, all finding our way. Mistakes happen. Work harder to forgive. Additionally, reach out, especially to those it would be easier to ignore. Our call is always towards reconciliation, bridge-building, healing relationships. We do not and cannot do that by refusing to speak to each other, or by attacking each other rather than listening with compassion.
And, as I have also said often before, remember that we have a choice about how we walk through each day. We have a choice about our perspective. Do we see these times as struggles? Or as opportunities to grow and learn? Do we see these times as nothing but hardship with people who are nothing but difficult? Or do we see this time as providing us the opportunity to be brave, to reach out to those with whom we disagree or are struggling and to find a new way to be in community together? I know that these dualisms are not realistic always. We will usually see both the bad and hopefully some of the good. We will recognize that there are hardships and gifts in this time. But I encourage all of us to focus on the good in our own lives so that we have the strength to deal with the challenges that we all face. Listen for God’s call to you today. Listen to the ways in which we are being challenged to grow in our understanding of the connectionality, the interdependence of all things. We need each other. As we can remember this, it will help us to choose kindness.
My prayers are with us all as we continue to navigate these troubling waters. May you find a place to breathe, a space to be. May you be held by your love for one another. And may you be emboldened to speak from places of love, compassion and forgiveness rather than from places of rage and pain.