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In My Own Words

The Class of 2020

As a high school principal, my husband has had to not only worry about our five children, but the 175 students he cares about as well. In addition to navigating online instruction, student and teacher morale and ensuring the well-being of the kids, he has also been trying to work out how to handle graduation for his 30 seniors. On a two and a half mile walk together, that topic (along with prom) dominated our conversation.

PictureHow do you make these kiddos feel special? How do you celebrate when you can’t be together? How can he do something – anything- that would begin to compensate them for what they lost in the closure of the school? 

This led to another question that I am sure all of us have had; will this distancing be the new normal? Will we ever feel normal again?

While not quite the same thing, this question took me back to the morning of September 12, 2001. I remember waking up at my parent’s house in Mt. Lebanon rather than my apartment in Oakland that I shared with my brother and a couple of friends. My mother was a professor at the University of Pittsburgh and had come to our apartment after the attack, taking us home with her. Had I not woken up at their house, I am not sure I would have believed the events the previous day had actually happened. The reality was so far-fetched that it actually felt dreamlike. 

Nothing felt normal. Comprehending the images on the television was like trying to read an ancient Greek tablet: foreign and out of place. Enjoying a meal felt wrong. Smiling, or God forbid laughing, was completely out of the question for days following the attack. Life stopped. There was no such thing as normal. As the days faded into weeks, and weeks to months, slowly life seemed almost normal, albeit not quite right.

This was the consensus my husband and I came to on our walk. Eventually, life will start to cast a hue of normalcy. It won’t be the same normal as what we knew before, and we will face the small differences that paint this new picture in all facets of our lives. Those who have lost loved ones to the virus will shoulder the heaviest burden of change. For those who have lost their businesses to the stopped economy, it will be extremely hard. 

Some of us will face the new normal with hardly any weight in that rucksack called loss. If you are one of these, please remember those who are weighed down and offer to help carry their troubles for a while. All of the jokes going into 2020 about great eyesight, and yet, maybe this is the year we gain perfect vision into how to best love our neighbor.

How great would it be if part of our new normal was greater love and compassion for each other? What greater way to honor those 30 graduates from my husband’s school and the countless other graduates of 2020 than to give them a gentler, kinder world as they face a new beginning.