I have to admit, I am feeling stretched and challenged. And I sense I am not alone. COVID. Back-to-school. Masks. Race. Remote learning. Social Distancing. Equity. Personal rights. CDC. White. Black. Vulnerable. Internet access.
It’s the end of summer. I long to be thinking about swimming and vacations and iced tea.
I hear parents asking what will school look like this fall for my children? Should we send them back in person? Should they ride the bus? What if we have no choice because of work and childcare issues?
Can we really do remote learning? What about their need for playing with friends? What if our internet access is too unpredictable or nonexistent? I hear the questions and concerns voiced by parents. I see the work that the school districts have poured into figuring out plans for the students and staff. Each district handling it differently, carefully, thoughtfully. For many parents this is a difficult and stressful decision.
The issues of race, equity and inclusion are heartbreaking, longstanding, and need to be addressed. I had the privilege- yes, I said privilege- of being invited by the NH Endowment for Health to be part of an Equity Cohort last fall. This cohort, facilitated by NH Listens, consisted of 20+ white women leaders in family and early childhood development and education from all over New Hampshire. NH Listens facilitators led us through a thoughtful process of examining our own perspectives and biases, a window into other perspectives, and a challenge to effect change starting with ourselves and our organizations.
I have spent the last year reflecting on my world view and seeking to broaden this view. My world view is limited by my experience, education, geography, relationships, and race. My first step in broadening my view is to recognize that my own view is limited. It is, after all, my view. It is not your view. Once I realize that my own view is limited, I challenge myself to become more curious and to seek to find out how others experience the world.
How do I explore how others experience the world? I started by looking at some of the books on race offered by the New Hampshire Public Library app, Libby. (I just discovered this treasure this year- wow!). Even though I got really uncomfortable and felt bad in the middle of the book I determined to read it through to the end. I can’t broaden my perspective if I shut down the input.
In the cohort we were encouraged to continue the conversation about race. It is terrifying to a conflict-adverse person such as myself. I almost assuredly will stick my foot in my mouth or offend someone. But I am determined to try.
And then there is COVID. It is still alive and well, unfortunately. And we are all making personal decisions concerning how we carry on with our lives. To mask or not to mask. To gather or not to gather. COVID has left us judging our neighbors, fearful and tired.
I don’t have any answers to any of these issues: schools, race, COVID. But I have this to offer: The core values of NH Family Resource Centers (FRCs) are respect, connections, empathy, and excellence. We are here to support you, your family, your neighbors, our community to the best of our ability. Are you anxious about what this school year will look like for your children? You are not alone. Are you a grandparent or relative caring for children? We can help you navigate resources. Have you lost your job or experienced reduced household income due to the effects of COVID? We can offer you individual money coaching to figure out this new financial reality and connect you to community resources.
Are you wondering whether your local Family Resource Center is really for everyone in our community? Yes, we are. New Hampshire’s FRCs are inclusive and welcoming to anyone. Are you a parent? Grandparent? Caregiver? We offer individual and group support and parent education opportunities. Are you a community member in need of assistance or trying to help a neighbor? We can connect you with the services and resources you need. Are you looking for a way to give back to your community, to help your neighbors, to do something positive? Family Resource Centers have a wide variety of volunteer opportunities.
I am challenged by much of what 2020 has brought. But I am determined to judge less, smile more, and welcome you to connect with Family Support New Hampshire and its member FRCs that offer support for you and your family. We are not alone.
Executive Director of The River Center Family & Community Support Resource Center