As I write this, we are under a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order from Oregon’s governor, and all of us are working and learning from home, as much as possible. The news about the COVID-19 pandemic is disheartening, and our community faces many challenges – financial, social, and emotional. I am, however, an eternal optimist, and I know that our school and our community will come through this even stronger than before. These days, I often find myself thinking about what positive changes might come from our current situation. Here are a few of my musings.
First, our rapid deployment of on-line, distance learning has proven to be very successful, and, as we fine-tune our work, expand our resources, and learn from our mistakes, becomes ever more so. Our creative use of technology could lead to long-term improvements in our ability to use educational technology to enhance collaboration, support students who are absent from school, and provide more affordable and accessible Jewish learning within our community.
Second, our current situation throws a spotlight on issues that need to be given higher priority in our society. Access to technology and the internet is one area of great inequity, as is access to health care. In a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver talked about the importance of assessing our current situation and asking, “What’s missing?”
Third, I think we’re building empathy, as a community and a society. We are having conversations with others in our neighborhoods to whom we’ve never spoken before. We are having phone conversations to check-in on friends and family. We are developing a new understanding of the experience of individuals who must attend gatherings, celebrations, and services virtually, for various reasons. All of this makes us more empathetic human beings.
Fourth, by staying at home, our world has become cleaner. News reports indicated that the air in China is far cleaner than it has been in many years, and this leads to better air quality around the world. In Venice, the canals have never been cleaner. Closer to home, reports indicate healthier air right here in Portland. While these are temporary changes that won’t last once factories re-open and people resume their driving, perhaps we will all become just a little bit more aware of our role in reducing pollution.
Finally, the human race has shown an ability to come together to address a global crisis. It’s pretty astonishing and unprecedented. If we are able to collaborate, as a global community, to address the COVID-19 pandemic, do we have the potential to address other global issues? Perhaps we will be motivated to work together, on a worldwide level, to address climate change.
There’s no question that these are difficult times for all of us in a multitude of ways. Let’s strive to not merely get through this, but to take from it some lessons that will help us work together to make this world a better place. Stay healthy and stay safe.