Community Is…

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford

By Kelsie Castro

A few months ago in the Olive room we asked our group of children what they thought community meant. At first there was silence as the children looked around at each other. This was a big question we were offering and of course it would take some time to process. But then, just a few moments later, the responses started coming in. Some relevant and some not, we started to break down the word together taking in the different things children shared and talking them through it. One response however, spoke for itself. We wrote the words down on the board.

“People working together”

Liam’s words captured exactly what we had hoped children would get out of this conversation. Hearing it my mind immediately went to all the ways we use the word community in our classroom and how perfectly this captured the intention behind that. Things like cleaning up together, giving each other reminders of agreements we’ve made, and sharing ideas with one another all seemed to be part of this bigger picture that Liam had created for us.

This was something I came back to the next few days as I considered ways to help children make meaning of these words. Looking at how we could help them really visualize this idea, we read books about people figuring out how to work together and gave them the task of visualizing their perfect school. Hoping to take those ideas and build an image of our community together, we continued to work through this piece we had gathered and build on it through our curriculum.

What I didn’t fully realize however, was that things like this are often best explained not through lessons or pictures, but through the actual experiences we share as human beings. And while all these things were still helpful to understanding times when people can to work together, the stories we really needed were all around us this whole time. 

This is something that has been especially obvious in the past couple weeks as we’ve been challenged with something different than anything we’ve been through before. With this pandemic quickly changing our way of being, we are tasked with really considering how we respond to the stress that brings. And while we of course can sink into the images that cause us to worry, we can also take a moment to appreciate and engage in the good that can be found in all of this. Because while the current climate is one of change and uncertainty, it’s also illustrative of something powerful: community.

In the past couple weeks we have seen a new side of people start to emerge, one that always seems to present itself in times of hardship or stress. Of course, that side is not always positive; but I would argue that I personally have experienced more of the good. As I’ve watched the news or scrolled through social media I have noticed a rise in people reaching out, in many ways, to connect with and protect the people around them. People sharing information and perspective in hopes to ease stress, offering supplies and resources to those in need, or simply keeping distance to protect others whose health could be compromised. Acts of empathy, support, and togetherness are now defining who we are, our community, during this unique time.

This is something I have seen out in the world and here at our school as we navigate our own changes together. Just in the short time we’ve been closed, teachers and families have already started to develop ways to keep us all connected. We’ve created resources for parents who need support, found ways to connect with each other from our homes, and made a conscious effort to share information and check in about how people are feeling during this time. We’ve had to work through a lot of questions, worries, and confusion, but we’ve done it all together.

In our little bubble here at Little Owl I have seen a community being strengthened through stress. I have seen people come together and as a team, move past the obstacles we now face. In this challenging time I have seen us grow, and I wonder what other communities out there are experiencing the same thing. For us we are lucky to have the resources we have within our school and our families. But not all places have that. For some people I know this time is more difficult, and mustering the strength to push through might be hard. And while I hope that all communities are experiencing some of this good I challenge those of you who can to ask yourselves: 

What can I do to the support people around me mentally, emotionally, and/or physically?

How can I be a beacon of positivity to those who are struggling during this time?

How can I stay connected and make sure the people I care for don’t feel alone?

Because now more than ever, we need our community and our community needs us. Now more than ever, we need everyone working together.

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