If you are feeling worried in these uncertain times, you are not alone. If you are filled with the desire to do something, to help, but you are aware of your limitations as you stay home for your safety and the safety of your community, you are not alone. These feelings of fear, uncertainty and the desire to do something were a main point of discussion this week when members of the Educate a Child Initiative gathered digitally for a meeting we were supposed to be having in person.
Since its beginnings after the 221st General Assembly, the Educate a Child Initiative has been rooted in finding ways Presbyterians, can follow our rich history of supporting education by advocating locally and nationally for teacher and children. Through this work, we have sought quality education for all children and healthy work conditions for all educators and school employees.
With this in mind, the Education Roundtable of the Educate a Child Initiative took a break from planning meetings for which we have no control. And instead, we created a list of ways Presbyterians (and others) can help from our homes, all while social distancing. Any form of reaching out in this chaotic time will not only be a lifeline to the parents and children learning a new schooling process, but can also be a gift to those living on their own as a means to stave off the loneliness that accompanies social isolation. Many of us left the call feeling better, knowing there were things we could actually do. We hope this list makes you feel a little more hopeful and productive too.
- Reach out to the families in your church. Call and ask parents how they are doing. Ask children to share with you one fun thing they have learned during their online classes or at-home work. Letting them share their new information with you not only entertains, but it is also helps the information really sink in when they “teach you”.
- Record yourself reading a book and share it with the children in your life. If you aren’t completely comfortable with technology to make a video, call a family you know and offer to read with their child(ren) for a few minutes. Read short books or make recurring times to read one chapter at a time of a longer book.
- Write letters to the children, youth, or college students in your church. Tell them stories of when you were in school or ask them questions about what they enjoy doing/reading/dreaming about.
- If you are a retired teacher or professor, or if you have a favorite subject from school that you use in your daily work, offer your skills as a tutor or “guest expert”. Let parents know that you can help teach on a regular basis, help with specific school assignments, or offer to make games or writing prompts to help supplement their schoolwork.
- Go through your church directories and call/write to families you haven’t seen or heard from in a while. Make time to connect with these children/youth at your church, too.
- There are some students who are missing out on important milestones of life. Proms and graduation plans are up in the air or being canceled. Find ways to celebrate the accomplishments of those youth. Send cards or make banners they can hang up in their houses to celebrate.
- Email or call your local principal (or superintendent) and ask what needs they see in the community.
- Find out the needs of the local foodbank and send money or make an order from a grocery store or website that can deliver directly. The same goes with school supplies.
- Post information on your social media about places youth and children can call if they are unsafe at their home or if there is an emergency. Post information about places that people can call if they are having suicidal thoughts, or their depression or anxiety is getting too big for them to handle. If you don’t have the numbers for your area, ask your pastor or let someone from Educate a Child help you research.
- If you have been a Confirmation partner, a Youth Advisor, or a Sunday School Teacher- now is the time to check in on those kids, even if they are parents themselves now! This time is a chance to reconnect and remind those you care about that they are beloved in this world.
There is so much more that can be read and learned about to help you through this time. There are websites and blogs galore with information on how we can be good neighbors, how we can support students and teachers, and how we can live into small moments of hope and joy in these scary times.
Pace yourself. You can’t know everything and be everything all the time.
Place yourself. Find your center in this storm. Reach out to the ones who ground you and create routines that bring you peace.
And find moments of Grace for yourself. Enjoy nature or read a favorite book. Call a loved one or watch your favorite movie for the 17th time. Remember always that in prayer and in play, in hope and in fear, we belong to God and we are beloved and called to share that love in the world.
Beth Olker is a member of the Educate a Child Initiative. She also services as Field Staff for Racial Equity and Women’s Intercultural Ministries at the Presbyterian Mission Agency and as Interim Youth Coordinator at Fort Hill Presbyterian Church. She is the child of a Special Education Teacher who is currently learning new technologies to serve her students and the grandchild of a Public School Librarian who is (with help) recording videos reading some of her favorite books and poems to share with her great grandchildren to encourage their love of reading.