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We Are In This Together

David Racine, FVS Dean of Students

Courage gives us a voice and compassion gives us an ear. Without both, there is no opportunity for empathy and connection.
— Brené Brown

This is the third in a series on how the School’s core values—Courage, Open-mindedness, Self-Reliance, Curiosity and Compassion—can help guide us during these times.

We are all adjusting to the new world of education and connection via the world wide web, apps, software, ebooks, forums, blogs, and many more technologies that serve us while we are apart from each other. Just a few months ago, as the dean of students and a teacher, I asked many of you to put your devices away and avoid the distractions they present in the classroom setting. I don’t believe a day passed when I did not ask a student to put away a device, and of course, I would get the usual eye roll and sigh. Times have changed. Now that we are asked to socially isolate from one another, we yearn for in-person interactions and human connections. I know many of you would love nothing more than to be back on campus enjoying time together. Now, more than ever, it is important to find the time to connect with your friends, families, and communities.

The word compassion derives from the Latin roots com “with, together” and pati “to suffer.” As we understand the word today, compassion is “a feeling of sorrow or pity excited by the sufferings or misfortunes of another.” Compassion allows us to connect both with others and ourselves. As Brene Brown states, “it’s not something we have or don’t have – it’s something we choose to practice.”

We are all experiencing the changes this virus has created. Social distancing has challenged our ability to connect with others. We are no longer able to socialize in classrooms, in the dining room, in the campus center, or on the quad. Now, rather than telling you to put your devices away, I urge you to pick them up and reach out to one another, to listen, and to “suffer with” one another. When we seek to understand each other’s challenges, we come together as friends and communities and are able to work through and overcome challenges together.

Here are a few ways to practice compassion:

  • Be vulnerable. This takes courage. Open your heart by sharing your own feelings and thoughts.
  • Lead with questions. Seek to understand someone else’s experience through questioning.
  • Assume the best. Relax your judgement. We all respond to and experience challenges differently.
  • Listen generously. Be fully present when connecting with others. Remove distractions from your surroundings to give that person your full attention and respect.
  • Practice self-compassion. Take care of yourself and listen to your own feelings: “We can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly” — Bene Brown.

Compassion is the willingness to give. It’s the desire to donate your talents, abilities, and most importantly, your time. It is the commitment to place someone else’s needs above your own. Practicing compassion will create the connectivity that we all desire and need during these challenging times. Compassion is not just an emotion but a lifestyle. Your ability to connect with and recognize the struggles of others will lift everyone around you and strengthen your relationships. Moving forward, remember the words from the artist formerly known as Prince: “Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.”
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