At this week’s Countway Town Hall, we heard a message of mixed emotions, hope mixed with realism, expressed by our speaker Dr. Allan Brandt. He expressed deep concern over the political divide that has taken over this country, the social and racial injustices called to light in the identities of who lived and died during Covid and the continued inequities in our health care system exhibited through the rollout of the vaccine. The vitriol response by some individuals to mask wearing and mask mandates, and the stigma and shaming that occurs throughout history experienced by those who have caught certain diseases such as HIV and now Covid are responses by those who need someone to blame for difficult and challenging times. We can learn from the past as we plan for the future. Dr. Brandt expressed hope for the days ahead as we prepare for a more robust campus opening putting into practice what we have learned during this pandemic about health and safety and disease prevention.
Why does hope matter now more than ever before? With an easing of some Covid-19 lock down restrictions followed by an incredibly rapid development of lifesaving vaccines there is a renewed focus to hope. Merriam Webster’s defines hope as “a desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable.” Hope is the belief we hold during tough times that things will get better. These days we “hope” to get back to a more “normal” life soon.
In 2018, the month of April was designated National Month of Hope as part of a national awareness campaign by a non-profit group called Mothers in Crises. The goal is to “think hope” and “make hope connections” in order to help families live drug free lives. Over time the hope campaign has become a powerful movement “of individuals joining forces and becoming citizens of hope in their own communities across the country.” This year’s slogan is “I would rather hope.”
On the Longwood Campus, Countway celebrates hope daily. We have seen hope since our reopening in newly renovated spaces to students for learning and study. Countway Library has become a sanctuary for students that have been feeling isolated and alone this past year. Our safety ambassador program has helped us get to know our students in a more deep and meaningful way. Students regularly tell the ambassadors how comfortable and safe they feel coming into Countway to study and how grateful they are for us to be open and provide them such a beautiful space in addition to a vast array of helpful print and online resources and collections. One striking example of hope occurred yesterday. A group of three students reserved one of our larger rooms (103) and sat independently at tables one at a time, 6’ apart, but together in the room and participated in a Zoom class together! The newly renovated Countway Library allows our students to be alone but together! The students gave us permission to take their picture (below). We were so excited to see them using our space in this way. Having the space and the technology in our library to help students learn together in a safe way is a sign of hope. Their hope inspires us to be hopeful too.