by Allison Gaines Pell
This has been an intense week to be sure. By the time you read this, I hope we all have used the weekend to restore ourselves somewhat after this long and tense election season.
I have moved through many stages of many different emotions this week in service of restoration. I have been inspired and supported by the incredible teachers, educators and leaders around me who, through it all, have been present and hopeful with children and communities, promotive of civility and respect, and exceptionally kind.
It is the children, however, who are showing me the way.
On Thursday morning, I went for a run to settle my thoughts. I found myself grappling with deep sadness about the loss of the opportunity to live in a nation that elected a female president and for the future that might have been. I know this moment will come one day, but when I think of what my grandmother and my mother have lived through and fought for to ensure that it was possible, it both roils and breaks my heart. When I thought about the possibility of my daughter and son being adolescents under female presidential leadership, I felt a swell of pride, the same pride I feel at every achievement I have earned in my own life as a result of what my mother and grandmother taught me and gave up for me. Among other things, I also felt deeply concerned about the language and behaviors that some in our nation may feel emboldened to use as a result of the tenor of this election. Regardless of which candidate one supports, in our school and in our nation, we strive to work against bias, against hateful words, against bullying and disrespect. We work here and in America - in whatever flawed or awkward ways - towards liberty and justice for all, and for the pursuit of happiness. And I want to believe - and have experienced - that people can love and respect and learn across differences, however mighty or ideological. That is the world I want our children to inherit and to believe in.
Returning home that morning, having watched the sun rise again over the changing trees, I sat down next to my daughter. When I told her what was troubling me, she turned to me and said, “But you know, there are so many people who are good and kind, and who are working hard to do the right thing. There are still so many good people and we have to work hard to find the best in each person.” There are so many similar anecdotes just like this one that transpired this week in our school and, I'm sure, in your homes.
While it remains essential to honor whatever feelings we are having this week as well as the important work ahead to fight for what is right, it helps to try to lean into the wisdom we can glean while listening to children at home and at school. They are our better angels. Let them give us strength for an open mind and an open heart so we can look for the best in each person and allow the change to begin with each of us. Let them show us the “cracks in everything,” because, as Leonard Cohen so aptly reminds us, “that’s how the light gets in.”