A special occasion for a special goodbye (EMIS 24/3/2020)
Soon we are all going to be isolated. In our rooms, in our homes, in our countries. We will close the door, close the windows, close the borders. We will feel safer, healthier. It is the necessity of today. This is the call of the hour. Through this call we might hear a voice asking us to choose: "what do you prefer? what comes first? Your family first? Your friends first? Your nation first? Maybe… America first?"
Sounds familiar? these questions aren't new. There are not only the questions of the hour, of this troubling time, there are the questions of every hour. It is the ultimate human choice. Practically we are prioritizing all the time. You cannot avoid it, since you can't care for everyone all the time to the same extent. So we are creating a story for ourselves of who we are and who should we care for. In that story a line must be drawn. The story defines our community and surrounds it with borders. These borders serve us in times of need, they protect us, they save us from caring too much when we must take care of ourselves.
This story, though, doesn't serve us only in the rainiest day; we carry it with us every day. Our communities become our only concern, the borders around them become stiff and unbreakable. We are bonding ourselves to this story: this is my community, this is my circle of care- my family, my town, my nation, my religion, my country. If you are in the other side of the border, you aren't a part of the story.
Viruses, apparently, did not read the story. They don't care who we think we are, they don't respect our identities, our communities or our borders. Though we might get better by isolating ourselves in the short term, we will never win this battle and get back to normality without adjusting the story. We don't have to completely alter it, we just need to enable it to be less rigid, more flexible and open to changes. How do you say it in biology? Adaptive.
The call of today might be to choose your preferences and isolate. But the call of tomorrow, of the future we must aim for, is completely different. It is not about who can we isolate, but who can we include. It is an urgent call that is asking us one thing, the hardest thing- to expend the scoop of our caring.
I heard that Tennessee Williams was once asked in an interview "what is the secrete of happiness?" His response was, "insensitivity". He is right. If you want to secure your happiness, you need to be care free. Sensitivity is surely not a recipe for an everlasting joy. But sensitivity is what we need, it is what we are most lacking in the world. We need people who are opening their hearts and adjusting their stories to include more and more people. You may not be able to include them all, but you can try to expend.
The most frequent question I have been asked as an educator is, "what do you wish your students to be?" I have a simple and very difficult answer- sensitive. I wish them to care. Care as much as they can. To always see if they can push a bit the limits of their caring. Because what do we do here at this school in the first place? We include. We care for more people. Even when it is hard, even when it conflicts with our own stories, with our own interests. We try to get more people into the borders of our community. People who do not share our identity, our narrative, our faith, our nationality. We know that and we still say- come on in. We care for our student in China, our alumni in Bethlehem, our friend in Italy, our teacher in Tel Aviv and our colleague in Melbourne. Even though it might be overwhelming, we care.
This is what I am asking you, begging you, to be- caring people. Sensitive people. When you really must choose a preference, so be it. But whenever you can, care more.
In life you will be faced with many temptations to care less, to limit the cycle of your caring. Many adults put the border around their caring in a manner that suits them well, but I call you not do the same. Care for your neighbors, not only for your family. Care for your employees, not just for your personal income. Care for all of your citizens, not just for the ones who voted for you. Care for wellbeing of the people in the other side of the border, not only for your own. You should also care globally. The borders of our communities is what we make them to be. We write our own stories.
The future calls for a new story. An inclusive story. A story of global cooperation. A story of mutual responsibility and trust. A story that will enable us to re-open our borders and expand our communities. A story of caring.
To end on a personal note, I want to share with you a story of mine.
Last year I went for a routine check-up for a minor defect in my heart. The cardiologist listened and examined and finally said to me, ''I am afraid your heart became bigger". "what do you mean?" I asked, pretty surprised by the new finding, "I mean that your heart might have been working too hard and therefore it expended. If this is true, we will have to operate on you, because we cannot allow your heart to expand too much".
Don't worry, I did some more tests and it seems that everything is fine and no surgery is needed. But I could not hold myself from thinking how symbolic this is. What happened to me since I came to EMIS is exactly that- my heart expanded. It now includes so many different people, people I never ever imagined will have a place in my heart, people I couldn't even guess I would care so much for. These people are you. Your story became my story. Your life helped me push my own borders and expend my cycle of caring. I want to thank you for expanding my heart in a way that no surgery would be able to fix.
I love you very much.
Good luck and take care,