From the President: Totems of Hope and Joy in the Simple Moments

Look around! The world is moving at a breakneck pace while we sit home and find new ways to work, engage, and thrive. At times, it feels lonely or distant, but if we look closely, we see that we are not alone. We find ourselves spread out in bedrooms, basements, kitchens, and garages, but our work is still meshing with our peers’ work, and together we are still supporting students, colleagues, friends, and family. Seeing that, we can take a measure of solace and note the reemergence of our communities from the chaos. This new distance calls on us to work harder to see our shared roles, other’s perspectives, and to listen for understanding, not just to be heard. 

I think of faith, hope, and love, and how each of us needs to embrace these ideas to do our work, especially now. These three words have long guided me in my life and work. Faith in others when we lose it in ourselves. Hope for others when we see them falter or struggle. Love of our shared potential even when we work at cross-purposes. 

ACUI stands as a hub for us to share our strengths, talk about our challenges, and celebrate our accomplishments. I have spent many years volunteering with this association, and I cannot think of a time when I have needed it more. I encourage each of you to lean on one another. I am sure most of us are planning for next year, not knowing what it holds for our institutions or ourselves. We need our community now more than ever. The Communities of Practice are incredibly active, and I love how everyone is sharing their challenges and possible solutions with one another. 

As I shared with the Leadership Team, the work of the Board of Trustees will be different this year. It is not business as usual. We have temporarily put a hold on our strategic plan and will focus on the sustainability of the Association. At heart, our work is to help and endure this hardship while keeping one eye on who we need to be on the other side. It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the moment and let our vision shrink to the now. Instead, we must always hold ourselves responsible for both the current moment and for tomorrow. 

Sometimes, it is easy to see and value the strength of our students and colleagues while missing our own power. I see in my colleagues, my students, and even myself that these struggles are strengthening our values, which leaves me optimistic that at some point on the other side of all this, we will be ready to do even more great work. Though physically distant, I see our communities growing closer and more durable. 

In hard times, when we can see the suffering around us, we must still remember to focus on self-care as well. We cannot help if we become overwhelmed by the moment. We must live with the adage, “put on your own oxygen mask first.” When we do this, we serve everyone around us better. Therefore, I call on you to find a small joy and share it. I will kick it off: 

I do not have a green thumb. My partner, Joss, and daughter Iris are the gardeners in the family. This past weekend, we decided to reimagine the site of a long-gone above-ground pool and transform it into a 25-foot by 30-foot garden. Joss rented a rototiller, and the kids and I picked up weeds and rocks. Usually, I would prefer to clean the house a dozen times rather than do a lick of yardwork. However, this past Saturday was different. As the area came together and I felt the dirt in my hands, I began to see what could be, how this unused space would become a feature. Our discussion quickly focused on what we should plant, how many plants, and what we want to eat this summer. As we began to plan, we quickly realized that we would need a fence. We thought of how much the puppies, deer, and bunnies will like the vegetables. 

I share all of this with you to say, find joy in the simple moments. It is easy for me to forget how lucky I am to be able to spend this quality time with my family. These small moments become totems of hope and joy that I use to overcome the daily moments of frustration. I hope you each can find your moments from which to draw strength. 

I will leave you with a quote from Brene Brown: “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness; it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” 

I wish you all good health and peaceful thoughts through these trying times and look forward to our shared work.