Social distancing, meet social capital!

Dean Kyte on the tennis courtsStanding on a bench on the tennis courts and speaking through a megaphone on a chilly, rainy Friday afternoon, Dean Kyte pointed out what the scene made plain: “this was not the plan.”

No, indeed. The plan had been to gather on the adjacent Fletcher Field for a hastily-arranged occasion, marking the last time a quorum of the Fletcher community would gather together for some time, and celebrating the resilience of that community in a time of extraordinary uncertainty. A cold, early spring rain, though, forced into action a Plan B in a week that has seen many Plans B through Z rolled out. Offering more solid (and less muddy) footing, and likewise plenty of space for 6′ social distancing, the tennis courts would have to do.

The Dean was not, of course, referring to the last-minute shift to the courts, but rather to these nutty times in which we find ourselves, and more specifically how they’re playing out at Fletcher. “This was not the plan,” she noted, “but this is what you train for at Fletcher.” Added Prof. Dyan Mazurana to the appropriately-spaced crowd, the very fact of being Fletcher students means “not only that you are up for a challenge, but that you seek a challenge.”

gathering on the tennis courtsSo there everyone was: many second-year students taking pictures in their graduation robes, first-year students and administrators air-toasting the “graduates,” each of us generally leaning into the surreality of it all. Controlling for the utter weirdness of circumstance and the not-great weather, there was a special feeling about, one that embodied what I’ve seen over and over from our community in the past week: a determination to be there for one another, and to make the best of things at a time when lots of us are feeling a bit uncertain, a bit scared, and more than a bit stressed out.

Observe the Social List posting by a student offering the use of his pickup truck to help with unplanned movings-out. Or another student conveying offers from immediate and extended family in the region to take in temporarily homeless Fletcher students for the remainder of the virtual semester, and even to vacate his own apartment for anyone in a bind. Many offers of accommodation in extra rooms, or on couches; announcements of flash apartment vacancies and sublet opportunities for students forced to leave dorms on short notice. On our end, lots of students with cancelled spring break travel plans offering to help out however they can as we plan alternatives to our erstwhile Open House events. And perhaps my favorite, an ongoing thread on the Social List begun by a student posting a simple reminder of the value of acting toward each other with kindness, and offering an open-ended invitation to reach out and talk to anyone in need.

This is how we get through crisis. We’ll still feel our disappointments, our fear, our uncertainties for the future, and our stress, and we’ll have to muddle through some things as we adapt to changing facts on the ground. But we’ll also remember that the strength of our community comes from more than being physically together, and that we can still be there for each other without necessarily being here. This community takes care of its own, something we’re seeing lots of these days.


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