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Why we feel helpless

| Wednesday, October 28, 2020

We read nutritional labels looking for the two or three values that make a food “healthy.” We often assess learning in neat categories with established titles and well-defined precedents. We admire bold acts and risk-taking as aspirational models. Many times, we express surges of emotion with grand acts that feel commensurate with their intensity … And when we cannot, we are thrown out of our comfort zone and we feel helpless, trapped and desperate.

Just as micronutrients we get from whole foods are needed by our bodies, and fresh ways are needed to assess the microgrowth that happens in real learning … microwork is crucial to a community’s well-being — always — and especially in a time of crisis.

When we say, “I feel helpless …” it is often because we are not able, in the moment, to see the value of the microwork that we do. Our feelings are so overwhelming, our ideas racing at 2,000 miles an hour … we want something that feels as intense to pour ourselves into… and we can — when we understand our own value and the value of small actions. When we reach out to a friend or colleague to sit quietly next to them, if that’s what they need, or listen to them talk about what they are experiencing — this is important micro-work. When we still ourselves and reflect or pray and allow ourselves to be fully present — to ourselves or to others — this is valuable microwork. When we tell a joke, get someone out for a walk, send a text, watch a movie, have a dance party or offer an established routine like a class or homework — this is crucial microwork.

So let us create a living, loving monument to the two young women, Valeria Espinel and Olivia Laura Rojas, whom we lost this weekend, and let us create a supportive network to facilitate the healing of Eduardo Calderón — body, heart and soul — in a mosaic of threads of connectedness through microacts of friendship.

Extraordinary pain and weariness call for bold acts of courage together with microacts of love. We, as a community, are capable of both.

Elena Mangione-Lora

professor of romance languages and literature, SMC ‘90, ND, MA ‘98

Oct. 26

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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