As the coronavirus pandemic has swept around the world, it has disrupted regular patterns of life and confined people within their homes. Like many college students, returning home unexpectedly in the midst of a busy semester was difficult as I grappled with the uncertainty of the coming months and the loss of a community into which I am so ingrained. Being quarantined in an apartment with my mom, younger sister, and a cat that enjoys chewing through my phone chargers, wasn’t exactly the summer I had planned.
Adjusting to new ways of living, working and regularly hand sanitizing has presented a wide range of challenges for people around the world. It has brought to light widespread social inequalities, eroded economic stability, and highlighted deficits in political leadership and governance structures. A global pandemic isn’t just a virus, but an infection that infiltrates all areas of our world, upsetting our sense of safety and predictability and leaving us with questions on how we define a new normal.
While isolated in our homes due to COVID-19, the focus of our attention has been drawn to the development of national and global events. This has produced a prevailing conundrum for many of an inability to affect meaningful assistance to others as the best way to ensure public safety is to stay at home; an action that feels like simply doing nothing at all. For me this has been a challenge, as much of the past period of time I’ve had to sit back and just let my cat become “wired”. As I remain on top of the news cycle, and discuss developments with my friends and family, it has felt like there is so much happening in the now-distanced world.
However, over the past months of isolation, what has allowed me to feel connected and stay positive about my circumstances has been the communities to which I belong. The continued support of my sports teams, my college community coming together to support its students, and a transition to new learning structures, in addition to the upwelling in support and advocacy for racial justice and other social inequalities from all around the world, has made it apparent how important communities are in holding people together during difficult times, as they come together to catalyze positive change.
Community isn’t just a group of people who inhabit the same space or area, but is a group of people who inhibit the same ideals. We all belong to a global community fighting a pandemic, and the actions we make on a daily basis add to the security and health of our world. We belong to a global community of people dedicated to creating an equal, diverse, and thriving society.
We also belong to our own local communities which, during this period of unrest and uncertainty, bolster us and allow us to adapt to new ways of living. This is why serving my home community as an @GBLabs Government Innovation Fellow this summer is so important to me, because it comes at a moment where supporting local communities and businesses is a global necessity.
A research organization launched in June 2020 in response to COVID-19, @GBLabs works directly with the Town Manager’s Office in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. @GBLabs identifies trends in governance, technology, healthcare, marketing, and zoning to ensure the town is serving it’s local residence to its fullest potential. The group explores a varied range of topics from multiple fields to achieve its mission of diverse structural innovation.
The Lab presents a unique opportunity to utilize my skills and interests to enhance the capabilities of local government. My position allows me to give back to the town where I grew up up and benefit the community that allowed me to stay safe and healthy during this moment of uncertainty. Working for my home community will allow me to make an impact in our global narrative of community focus.
Additionally, this opportunity appeals to my interest in both community engagement and journalism. Community journalism and communications are integral to community development, as digital media shifts the landscape of news access to an increasingly national focus. The importance of communications has been highlighted by the pandemic, as we have been forced to use more digital forms of information sharing. Communication provides an interesting space to innovate structures in response to global issues along with developing ways to connect real world concerns to the everyday lives of community participants.
Lasting change comes from consistency. It comes from the ways we support each other and engage in making the world around us a better place. Although the past year has shown me that the world we inhabit can change at any moment, it has also made it apparent that at any moment we can change the world we inhabit. Those changes start small. They start from conscious daily actions and they start from supporting the communities to which we belong. They start with not getting mad at your cat for eating your phone charger because, really what else is she supposed to do right now?