Dear 25th Year HST Parents,
First, I want to make it clear that my only desire is to discern God’s will for HST and follow through with that. I am also aware that God gives discernment in many ways – including wise council from others. That is why we will have a zoom parent meeting tomorrow evening (Wed., May 13th – 7pm). In preparation for that meeting, however, I would like to ask that you be willing to read my thoughts concerning the big-picture affects of this pandemic.
First – a short back-story for why I feel the way I do.
My favorite stories are biographies. There is so much that we can learn from the courage of those who have gone before us. Whether or not you are Catholic, Pope John Paul II was clearly a holy man who lived an amazing life. He was studying to be a priest when Poland was taken over by the communists. He continued to study in secret but he did something else in secret as well – he performed. He was an actor who risked his life, along with others, to put on performances in homes. When asked later why he did that, he said that the goal of communism was to destroy people’s individuality and their cultural identity, which leads to apathy and compliance. He said it was essential for them to keep their Polish heritage alive by telling their stories and sharing their great literature/plays. Holding onto their identity and roots is what gave many the strength to also hold onto their faith throughout the 45 years of communist rule that would follow.
Next, I want to share that I have 2 daughters who are counselors. One of them said, “The pandemic after this pandemic will be the trauma and anxiety that everyone will have to process in order to get on with their lives.” In some ways, homeschool students will have had less trauma than others because they were used to schooling at home, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be long-term affects. As a parent who has journeyed with my adult children while they worked to heal traumas from their youth, I can testify that parents don’t always see how deeply life is impacting our children’s spirits. This is not because the parent has failed in any way. It is simply because the children themselves are unaware of the true impact. These hidden traumas often don’t show up until years later when the (now) young adults find themselves struggling with their ability to trust, or to commit to a relationship, or they find themselves continually over-reacting to something(s).
Now, please do not think that I am trying to be an alarmist or add one more thing to be fearful of. HST students are blessed with strong, loving families who will continue to love and support them. They also have the “gift” of experiencing this trauma with the entire world (private/hidden traumas are much harder to heal). However, the fact remains that when everything gets canceled over and over, many people start coping by not caring. They become flat and unmotivated and depressed, as well as becoming more and more blinded to the needs of people around them. Our sense of community erodes as everyone develops a “survival of the fittest” mindset. Eventually compassion for neighbor is over-taken by fear and people become angry when they start to view other people as threats to their safety. This is the spiritual battle of this pandemic.
Do I really believe that finding a way to salvage our show season or just give closure to our students will make a difference in this battle? Yes. Absolutely. Why? Because it is *something*…and people survive times that are out of their control by doing whatever they CAN do. Right now, it is probably easier for your students to just give up and mourn their loss or just “not care.” After all, it’s just one more loss among so many losses. However, I want to challenge parents to think about your children’s long-term healing. How will you help your children get back into life, to “care” and to find the motivation to pursue their dreams when they’ve lived through the reality that life can change on a dime? They *know* that what we have today, may not be what we have tomorrow. This is not a small thing. It is a life-changing experience that will affect every decision your children make for the rest of their lives. If you doubt this, think about grandparents (or great-grandparents for those who are younger than I) who lived through the great depression. My grandmother could never throw away a piece of aluminum foil, a piece of string, a jar, a bag…and certainly not any scrap of food. She was *forever* changed. Also, think about the impact of 9/11 (which was just one day). This pandemic has impacted lives for a couple months and will continue to impact for many more months because the “fear” of this illness will not disappear until a vaccine is found, produced, and administered to the world. Even then, there will always be the fear of a mutated form of the virus – or new viruses.
So, the first reason that I believe HST needs to do whatever it can to salvage our show season – or give some sort of closure – it to fight against the shutting down of our children’s spirits. While many students at this moment may be saying that they’d rather just “move on” and look forward to next year; my question to parents is: what happens when next year brings more disappointment? How quickly will the youth with this temperament transition from “moving on” to “giving up.” After all, why pursue dreams if they can be whisked away overnight? Why care at all – if it will just bring disappointment later?
My second reason for doing whatever we can, is based on a different temperment’s reaction to COVID19 – increased anger. I know that if this had happened during my teen “rebel” years, my anger would have flared immediately. I would have perceived the adult reactions to this virus as over-reactions based on fear for themselves and too little concern for the sacrificed opportunities for the young (opportunities that those adults had had, but were all-too-willing to surrender because there was no cost to themselves). Disclaimer: I fully acknowledge that anger – just like fear – does not lead people to logical, rational thinking. I am simply sharing how my teen-age rebel brain worked so you might better understand that I want our students to know that we did not throw in the towel quickly, or without regard for their incredible losses.
In the end, the fate of HST’s shows and/or our options for giving some sort of closure are completely beyond anyone’s control. My goal from the beginning was to fight for *something* for our students until there was nothing left to fight for. I have also prayed from the beginning that God would not allow us to do anything that was not His will. Obviously, one of the ways God could show me what His will is – is through the parent vote that will happen Thursday 5/13. Another way God could intervene is for Gov. Hogan to announce at Thursday’s 5pm press conference that groups of no more than 10 will remain in affect through mid-June. A third way would have been if the financial cost of filming would put HST’s survival at risk (something that did not prove to be true based on the best available calculations).
Finally, I want to make it clear that I do not have a dog in this fight. No one’s vote should have anything to do with me. I am an adult who is capable of deciding whether or not I’m comfortable with the protective procedures that HST would put in place. Therefore, do not make my protection the justification for your decision. Conversely, do not think that you need to do this “for me” because I will take it personally, or be upset. My feelings are mine to process, as are yours. I strive hard to live by the principle of “agreeing to disagree.” Obviously, I wouldn’t have proposed filming if I didn’t believe it could be done safely, but I am also aware that everyone has different comfort levels and different risk factors. My job is to do the best I can with the limitations and circumstances that exist. While those circumstances have been a moving target requiring several updated plans, I stated that filming in the first two weeks of June would be the last proposal for troupes & Showcase. That statement remains true. If filming is no longer possible (regardless of which reason that becomes true), we will look at ways to give some closure and then move onto next year.
Please know that you are all in my prayers. Blessings, Marilyn