As the fall semester of school comes to a close, we, the adults around you, want to say thank you.
In the current darkness you are our light.
Last spring schools were shuttered and colleges asked their students to leave college campuses in a week’s time, and then hurry and leave the next day. So much was taken from you-your social life, your sports, your extracurriculars, your physical classrooms, your entire school experience. Your summer jobs.
And while we adults dug our divisive trenches and insisted on seeing public health measures through the lens of our own particular political belief systems, you simply did as you were asked.
You lost so much but you adjusted
With all that you lost, you adjusted.
You adjusted to the new way of learning, even though for some of you it was nearly impossible.
You adjusted as proms and graduations were scrubbed and then you reimagined those events.
You adjusted as shows and recitals of all kinds were cancelled and you thought of other ways to entertain us and each other on social media and with virtual concerts and shows.
You adjusted as sports were pulled and camps were closed and physical internships were either cancelled or became remote.
When we asked you to stop seeing your friends because it was too risky, you complied. You told us that you were worried about us. You didn’t want to get us sick and you did what you could to protect your parents and grandparents.
You adjusted to this strange new life we were all living.
Then you returned to school this semester
Those who returned to school in the fall and those who stayed home both made the best of an increasingly difficult situation. Stressed out and beleaguered administrators reprimanded you for age appropriate behaviors, even though some of those adults were doing the very same things.
At many schools, students buckled down, following the myriad of confusing and restrictive rules. Schools succeeded in getting in front of the virus. But those successes didn’t get nearly as much attention as the misbehavior or the case spikes because what’s attention grabbing about, “Kids behave, do everything that is asked of them and virus levels remain low.”
Bad behavior and illness spikes at universities sucked all the oxygen out of the room, but we had our eyes on you and we saw you.
We saw you grabbing your mask every day.
We saw you social distancing.
We saw you abiding by lonely quarantine restrictions.
We saw you taking care of each other.
We saw you volunteering to shop for your elderly neighbors.
And as schools ramped up testing to every other day, we heard not a single complaint about the arduousness of it all.
Instead, you told us that you were grateful for the opportunity to be with your friends in any capacity. You would continue doing what you needed to do to stay where you were.
I can’t help but feel that we have failed you
We adults complained, we whined about the discomfort of masks, we shouted about the loss of personal liberty. Maybe we even lost sight of the fact that our most important job was to protect you. It’s not a matter of individual fault, but I can’t help feeling that we as a society failed you in some spectacular ways.
We failed you, but you did not fail us.
We are so proud of the way you have handled an impossible situation. Metal is forged in flames. This experience has shaped and molded you. In my heart, I believe that your generation will take the learning from this era and weave it into the remaining days of your lives. You have learned compassion, accountability, resilience, flexibility and what it looks like to be truly responsible for others.
You’ve always had our love, but you’ve earned our trust, our admiration and our respect. Into your hands we place our hope for a better tomorrow.
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