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Article contributed by guest author, Dr. Autumn Willinger.
“Think of love as a state of grace: not the means to anything but the alpha and omega, an end in itself.” Gabriel Garcia Marques, Love in the Time of Cholera.
There was a saying which became popular about ten years ago. “You never know what someone is going through. Be kind. Always.” These days, we can be certain that our colleagues, family and friends are indeed going through something due to COVID-19 or one of its many variants. Maybe their family members or friends were one of the over five million people who have died from COVID-19 related illness or one of the over 300 million who contracted it. Perhaps their household, like 20 million other Americans, has been affected by food uncertainty. In just the US, 15 million people were unable to make rent or mortgage payments last year due to COVID-19 related loss of income and there are still now still more than 10 million people struggling to meet this basic need. Perhaps they or their guardians are among those whose livelihood has been affected with the US economy seeing 5 million fewer jobs today than in February of 2020 (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).
COVID-19 has significantly affected our mental health as well. Patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis were more likely to experience a new onset of a mental health condition. Biological factors directly related to COVID-19 such as compromised immune system, loss of functioning, or prolonged hospitalization as well as social factors such as economic uncertainty, loss of support networks and housing insecurity can all contribute to the onset of a mental health condition (Ali, M., 2021). It is practically certain that worldwide, each one of us has experienced at least one of these outcomes or knows someone who has.
We were hopeful that we had turned a corner on this disease: It has been a cruel blow to have new variants emerge. Omicron has caused another shutdown of schools and places of business. Whatever we believe: politically, spiritually, or scientifically, most of us would agree that we are weary and saddened by the losses we have experienced individually and collectively.
What is the way forward? I was recently on a flight and observed flight staff speaking to passengers about putting on a mask. Some complied, some did not. Some were dismissive, rude or even combative. When I went to the back of the plane mid-flight, I spoke to one of the attendants and let her know that I was sorry she had to deal with mask adherence enforcement in addition to her regular job duties. She began crying and shared that her brother’s funeral was just four days past. He died of COVID-19. When I asked why she came back to work so soon, she replied that she loved her job and it helped her to take her mind off her problems. If those mask-reluctant passengers knew of her loss, I am certain that most of them would have had a different type of interaction with her, been more kind.
“You never know what someone is going through. Be kind. Always”.
Individually, we are not going to solve the health, social or economic problems brought by COVID-19, Delta, Omicron or any other viruses. But can we make someone’s day brighter with a commitment to kindness? Studies have found that acts of kindness are linked to increased feelings of wellbeing. Witnessing, doing, and receiving acts of kindness all lead to increased heart and mind health, lessens depression and increases feelings of love, strength and energy (The Science of Kindness, 2021). One of my Futures Academy parents signs all of her emails with “Hugs.” Whether it is an email about schedule changes, yearbook photos, class updates or anything else, I feel goodwill coming though my laptop.
Here at Futures Academy, acts of kindness are woven into every aspect of our work with students. Our classes are taught individually. Teachers can take the time to ensure content mastery and promote patience and kindness as they are not overwhelmed by classes of 30, six times a day. When the unexpected happens, our students and families have the option to reschedule a class to a later date. Families whose children need extra support can find it on our campus or through our network of education therapists, adolescent psychologists, cognitive function, and behavior professionals. To have this level of connection between a school and families is new to me in my 20+ years working in the field of education. Now, I can’t conceive and could not support, another way than ours.
Can we help you or someone you know with a loving AND academically sound place to learn? Futures Academy has campuses throughout California led by heart-centered administrators and teachers. We are the leader in relationship-based learning. We don't teach in classrooms with lines with rows of uncomfortable desks, but through relationships, community service and social events on and off campus. Our middle school and high school students feel a sense of hope about their educational and social experiences. They build confidence. They excel. Give us a call or better yet, stop by one of our unique campuses. We would love to show you a different, kinder way of learning.
Ali, M. M. (2021). Mental health consequences of covid-19: The role of Social Determinants of Health Research Brief. ASPE. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://aspe.hhs.gov/reports/mental-health-consequences-covid-19-role-social-determinants-health-research-brief
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2021). Tracking the COVID-19 economy's effects on food, housing, and employment hardships. Tracking the COVID-19 Economy's Effects on Food, Housing and Employment Hardships. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/tracking-the-covid-19-economys-effects-on-food-housing-and
The Science of Kindness. Random Acts of Kindness. (2021). Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness
About the author: Dr. Autumn Willinger, Head of School at Futures, Newport Beach
I come to the Newport Beach campus with over 20 years of experience in teaching and managing campuses. I have worked in middle and high school settings as Teacher, Curriculum Developer, Department Chair, Dean of Students and Assistant Head of School. A lifelong learner, I have a Bachelor’s in Studio Art, Master’s degrees in both Education and Information Science, and a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership.
I am a mother to two adult sons and in my free time am an avid reader and pickleball player. I am thrilled to be at the Newport Beach campus and look forward to getting to know students and families during the school year.