Take a few deep breaths with me. In…. Out…. In…. Out….
My last Heirloom article was written in late April, when I was still hoping beyond hope that our nation would: 1) Ensure adequate supplies of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for all health care workers, 2) Greatly expand coronavirus testing, and 3) Proceed with utmost caution in re-opening public spaces.
News reports cause my heart to sink. Nearly two-thirds of health care workers report PPE shortages, especially N-95 masks. In Ohio, testing is limited unless you fall into one of the top priority groups. As for re-opening? No state, including Ohio, has come close to the federally recommended decline in cases over a 14-day period before beginning a phased re-opening. Ohio’s daily statistics have been rising again as the state began lifting restrictions in May.
What does this mean for all of us? First and foremost, we need to stay safe. Wear a mask, limit unnecessary travel, be diligent about safe physical distancing, and wash your hands often.
What does this mean for our Heritage children and youth?
That’s a more complicated and sobering conversation. Everyone who has ever observed children knows that social distancing is not in their nature. Children play, they hug, they wrestle and tackle and poke, and sometimes even bite. Younger children don’t hesitate to put toys in their mouths and even older kids often chew on a finger or bite their nails. Try enforcing keeping six-feet-apart-from-your-friends to a kid and see how far you get.
For older children and youth, video-conferencing gets mixed results. Building community through a computer screen is proving much more difficult than simply dialing into a Zoom call.
The question then becomes — Under current pandemic conditions, how do we respect, nurture and grow our children and youth’s spiritual selves? Will enhanced video-conferencing work? YouTube how-to videos? RE-at-home packs? Family worship and rituals?
The answer appears to be: All of the above. There is no one-size-fit-all. What works for one family might be useless for another and vice versa.
Then a new question arises: What help, resources, and materials do families need so that growing our children and youth’s spirituality becomes a joy and not another burden? At this point my answer must be: I don’t know.
Over the next 4 weeks, Heritage will be pausing all of its Religious Exploration offerings to more fully contemplate this question. I’ll be taking my accrued vacation time for rest and renewal, then using study leave to begin again to re-imagine RE with the goal of launching a new, more sustainable program in late summer.
Please be patient. Be safe. Take care of each other. And know that all of you are held in my heart.