COVID, Communication, Community

COVID, Communication, Community
Craig Gemmell

My life has been dominated by three words since March. COVID appeared in the news around New Years and was splashed across the continents by March. Communication became more intense, virtual, and relentless as I worked with others to keep our promises to families despite a 0.05 micrometer viral monkey wrench. And Community was, at first, what we struggled to maintain and then, when we were able to really be together, has come to crisply define how we came to live, learn, struggle, and succeed as one. We’ve now been in classes for about a month—it's been hard and an endless joy at the same time. 

The amateur etymologist in me has fixated for a while on possible shared origins of these three words that all begin with CO. Alas, a quick google search showed me I was grasping for straws since the CO in Covid of course derives from the Latin Corona, a crown, owing to the round, spiky, crown-like appearance of the virus when viewed through an electron microscope. On the other hand, the “co” prefix in communication and community both derive from the Latin com, which means together. 

My sleuthing wasn’t a total waste because it did get me thinking some about the critical relationship between communication and community as shapers of expressions of togetherness. For through all of the days of this last, long stretch, those of us who have been planning and communicating those plans have done so together, and we have communicated to keep the community together. Our communication was not a one-way street. Wednesday night I sent out a note to the community and it was like shaking the question tree, for emails and texts fell from the sky and then trailed off. Thursday I sent out a second note, and, once again, back came the questions. 

Don’t get me wrong—those were all good, valid, and useful questions—warranted due to our situation and appreciated because such dialogue gives rise to community and to togetherness despite our physical distance one from another. 

Yet none of these questions were devoid of a base understanding of the world we all inhabit. No one was apparently surprised that we had a potential positive COVID case. No one was apparently critical of our letting them know. No one appeared to question why or how we were responding. 

Such civil exchange was no accident. We have all been communicating all along. Brewster has, to some people’s estimation, over-communicated. And parents and kids have certainly responded in kind. Everyone in our community is in agreement about why we are back at school, how we are daily striving to mitigate risk, and how we would respond if a suspected positive case emerged. Our shared understanding emerged as a result of a steady back-and-forth, an iterative process in which we all moved from broad goals to the details that bound the broad goals together and made them actionable. 

What a strange and wonderful gift it is, this COVID-inspired communication that has strengthened our community and rendered us more together in a world that feels never more apart. It is a profound opportunity to grow that will have resonance through time in our community as we learn to be more agile, more resilient, more deeply clear about intent on our core purposes in a world filled with monkey wrenches small and large. 


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