Yet here we are, learning how to communicate with faculty, staff, students, and even our loved ones, remotely. Over the last 4 weeks – has it only been a month? – my life (as well as all of yours) has become a series of digital interactions that take so much energy and leave an emptiness when completed. We do the work with all our being while longing for what we cannot have.
And that is the crux of our dilemma. The first reaction humans have in a crisis is to band together, to huddle for physical and emotional support. It is a basic desire. We see communities band together to help one another after natural disasters, be it a floods, tornado, or fire. It is manifest during times of crisis in our relationships, where we meet with close friends who can help us navigate the emotions that overwhelm us. Our humanity is defined by our ability to care for one another. “I’m there for you” is the phrase we utter to assure those we care about that we will come to their aid when needed.
I can’t talk with my colleagues in the hall to help come to terms with the day’s events. I no longer run into someone as I walk across campus, and end up having a cup of coffee to catch up. The joy of interacting with students in a classroom and during office hours has vanished, replaced by little squares on my computer screen (and some of those are only names). I can’t even see my own adult children. Three of them live together so they can afford to live in LA, but two of them work in a grocery store, so the likelihood of them contracting COVID-19 is unacceptably high. So here I am, social distancing.
And yet, we are still Glendale College. With every crisis comes an amazing ability to support one another. The Social Sciences Division hosts a daily “let’s get together” Zoom session. It was there that one of my fellow faculty let me know that I could buy hardware to create a Mesh WiFi for my house, therefore overcoming the daily crisis as my wife and I try to hold class simultaneously. Or there is the work I do with your Guild Executive Committee, as we collaborate to identify and resolve issues that arise which threaten our financial and professional well-being. There are the new kinds of remote student interaction that bring a renewed sense of usefulness.
So, as we work together – even if it is remotely – I am struck by the commitment of my colleagues to help, to guide, to think, to care. And it is this last characteristic, caring, that is the key to why I still have hope for our future. Despite what has assaulted us, the faculty, staff, and administrators have found ways to work together in our effort to help one another help our students. The fundamental humanity of our campus community is demonstrated each and every day through all the little things we all do to help our students – and each other – get through to the other side of this unimaginable awfulness. No matter that we have to work from our own little spaces, seemingly separated from one another, in our hearts we know we are not truly alone.