A tiny virus teaches us –
the need to caring for each other;
We were together 25 years ago…
smiling happily with each other!
We wanted to be – once again
to see and embrace – each other!
a tiny virus prevented us
But, rationally we all are together –
craving for good health of each other!
a tiny virus teaches us –
The shakiness of our life-systems; and
the power of the rest – in the ecosystems!
This poem was written by Leela Padmini Batuwitage, a former classmate of mine from Sri Lanka in honor of, what would have been, a very special celebration. Today, I was supposed to be in Cambridge, Massachusetts, celebrating alongside my fellow alumni our 25-year reunion since we graduated from our Harvard master’s program. An achievement that helped shape all of our lives. Today also, millions of students all over the world are seeing their education be affected by this global crisis. I think about all the students that had to leave their campus dorms or housing to go back to their families. All the students whose dynamic has been disrupted. All the students who have even had to put off their graduation, indefinitely.
For me, these kinds of celebrations carry a lot of meaning. To value education means to recognize that these milestones are special. The lessons, experiences, relationships, hard work and achievements you earned through your formative years deserve to be commemorated. So a few days ago, the members of my Harvard class and I decided to honor our reunion in the only way this pandemic would allow us to.
The class was originally comprised of around 100 people from all around the world. We all worked towards our mid-career master’s degree for executives and professionals. We were all between the ages of 30 and 50. 25 years later 55 of us came together to celebrate our “reunion” via Zoom. For two and a half hours we caught up on what we’ve all been up to during this quarter century. We’ve all had successful careers; many with important positions in public institutions, private ventures and even nonprofit organizations. We all shared our personal experiences of what we have been going through in the last few weeks.
We heard from peers who currently work in the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Health Department who are facing this crisis head-on in their jobs. We heard from people in all five continents who are trying to deal with it as best they can; trying to figure out how to adapt or reinvent themselves in light of this unfortunate reality. Together we decided to channel a little optimism and save our reunion by postponing it until fall. But most importantly, together, we decided to task ourselves to do something to contribute to the resolution of this situation. Firstly, we all vowed to help out any NGO, foundation, institution or initiative that in one way or another is aiding the efforts to overcome COVID-19. Secondly, we will try to use our influences in the different countries we come from to see how different issues are being handled, and how they’re preparing for the aftermath. Finally, we all made the commitment to start thinking about what the state of the world will be like after we overcome through this pandemic, and how each of us can do our part to make it better than it was before.
I left the Zoom conference with a little more hope than I had before my day had started. It made me realize that the one thing that is going to save us is the fact that we are all in this together. The global nature of this enemy and the advances in technology means that there are mechanisms in place for the “democratization” in the search for answers and solutions. Leaders, experts, workers and everybody in between are looking for ways to make this go away faster and to make the process easier.
Thanks to technology, students can finish their school years online and 55 classmates can reunite after 25 years of their graduation. Most importantly, we can all be with each other even if we are continents apart and hold out for hope screen by screen.