Sometimes it’s the little things like holding a door or saying thank you, and sometimes it's the moments that ask for much more sacrifice. Tuesday reminded me of this when I got the call early evening that one of the weekly saliva pool tests had pinged positive and 50 faculty and staff had to be antigen and PCR tested by our Health Center staff. We wanted to hustle the new round of tests off to the lab, so the call went out for folks to come back to campus. Immediately. The Health Center staff, some of them just having gotten home from their day shift, all showed up. The employees who needed to be tested left families and drove back to campus to stand outside the Health Center and wait their turn to be swabbed. They did so with humor, patience, and caring, and by 9:30 that night the task was complete.
Caring is a concept lodged somewhere between responsibility and compassion. We care for the things that, well, we care about. It would be nice to think that it is always driven by magnanimous altruism, but we learn to care for what we love because we often get something back. Our caring investment offers a return. When I spent time in the mountains as a NOLS instructor or running wilderness programs at another school, I used to say, “Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you.” That finicky MSR stove? Take care of it, because when it’s raining and cold and you need that stove, it will boil water for that hypothermia-preventing hot drink. That fleece jacket? Keep it dry because when the temperature plummets and you need another layer, it will keep you warm. Lessons like these are simple to grasp, and the beautiful thing about them is they scale up. We’ve seen that this term: take care of the community and it will take care of you.
If asked at the start of the Winter Term about the odds of getting through January and February and all the way to the end of the term in March, I would have replied, “Slim at best.” The surge in national cases felt daunting. The rollout of the vaccine seemed inchoate and distant. The experts predicted shutdowns. The forecast was bleak. But what I have come to believe over the last few months is that an overwhelming, collective commitment to caring - even if it wasn’t perfect at times - carried us through. We bought in. It was in little moments like masking up and washing hands. It was in bigger moments like muscling through Phase 1 lockdowns and PCR testing. We learned to step up. The caring witnessed in the Proctor community this winter (and throughout the year) kindled a kind of can-do community attitude.
When caring scales up, the return compounds. And what was the return on the collective investment? We got a term. We got to put on a play, make art in Slocumb, write papers in the library, play hockey games in the Ted, ski race at the Proctor Ski Area, share meals in the Brown Dining Commons. We got to run off campus programs and share laughs with friends. We got to hike to the Bulkhead and skate on the pond. Because we cared in all of the caring ways, we got to have what we so often take for granted: a community.
It was a challenging term, a difficult term, a gritty term, and an inspirational term. Caring made it possible. Let’s carry that lesson forward.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School