Give Yourself a Pat On the Back

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

Yesterday I zoomed with 45 people. Our group’s age range was 50 to 94. We talked for 90 minutes about the upcoming American presidential election. Think about THAT.

Not the topic or the devices or the virtual platform. Instead, think about the people in any Zoom gathering you have attended. Think about yourself. And give yourself a pat on the back. A year ago most of us had never attended a Zoom meeting. Today, virtual get-togethers have become part of our routine.

Weddings, funerals, concerts, reunions, classes, happy hours, yoga sessions…virtually anything can be virtual.

Last March we were in Timișoara, Romania where I was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of West teaching two courses to Romanian students in the American Studies Department. I had met my classes two times before the University made the decision to go ‘virtual.’ I remember thinking two things. This COVID shut down won’t last very long before the world returns to normal and while it does last I will send my students question prompts and we can use email and Google Drive, two technologies I was comfortable with, until the world returns to normal.

I had never taught an online course nor used a virtual platform. Zoom conjured images of Mighty Mouse flying through the air and not a technology I could use to connect with my students.

Of course, the world didn’t return to normal, and so after about a week of resistance I learned to use Google Meet for our class sessions. Today, Google Meet or Zoom is well within my zone of comfort.

The world throws COVID at us and everywhere I look I see individuals, families, businesses, local communities, states and countries responding in a resilient way. Every day is filled with moments different from what they would have been before COVID. None of this is meant to lessen the tragedies of COVID, the deaths, illnesses, and the never-to-be-gotten-back-chance to say good bye to a loved one.

Most of us don’t think very much of ourselves, at least some of the time. We put on a good show but we know ourselves too well to be very impressed. When I was an undergraduate student, taught by faculty with MA’s and Ph.D’s, I thought those academic credentials were outside my notion of what was possible, for me. Years later, after earning both, I have tended to downplay each, thinking if I could do it anyone could. It is easy to forget how hard we are on ourselves, how much we need to see clearly our beauty as well as our ugliness, our uniqueness as well as our mediocrity.

After yesterday’s Zoom session, I was filled with a sense of wonder, even re-directing some of it at back at myself. Look around you, and include in that looking yourself, and see, really see, all the ways you have adapted to this pandemic. Do the same for family and friends. Include that neighbor, you know, the one with the sign for the ‘other’ candidate!

We all deserve a pat on the back.

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