By Deb Habib
Published in the Greenfield Recorder on March 25, 2020
Much of my career as an educator has focused on supporting young people — many who have experienced isolation and trauma — to develop skills to survive and thrive. In alignment, our practices at Seeds of Solidarity Farm and Education Center in Orange cultivate resilience through farming methods that honor the living ecosystem, and programs that reconnect people to their sources of sustenance and a sense of mutuality. At this time, the question of how to approach uncertainty with resilience is heightened; it is newer for some, and deeply familiar to many who have faced it every day of their lives. The experience of this pandemic will have a lasting impact on many young people. In the best of scenarios, they will develop meaningful tools for resilience for times of crisis, that are valuable for all times. A wonderful gift we can offer children and youth right now is a tool-box of strategies for wellbeing and creativity, as well as a deeper connection to nature and to each other that they can carry forward well beyond these times. The ideas offered below require little or no cost, and consider a range of ages, learning styles and abilities. If one resonates with you, wonderful.
Grow something: You can do this inside right now — sunflower seeds (in their shells, raw), or snap pea seeds left from last year will grow quickly in some soil in a pot or milk container with holes, on your windowsill or porch (bring in on cold nights). Snip and eat! Plant spinach, lettuce, peas, and radishes as soon as the ground thaws, or in containers.
Breathe in nature: Start your day with fresh air: a short walk, an open window. Parks and trails, many accessible, are abundant in Franklin County and the North Quabbin. Many kids have never climbed and sat in the low branches of a tree, teach them to do so safely. Bundle up and step outside each night to look at the sky, and contemplate the wondrous vastness of which we are a part.
Gather inspiration: Collect [or make up] affirming poems or quotes (for example, quotes on courage, or kindness). Print or write them out and take turns reading one aloud before meals, or upon awakening. Keep favorite quotes on slips of paper in a jar and you’ll have them for the future! And in the future, making a jar full to share with others is a great gift.
Cook and prepare nourishing food: Vegetable soup is a great one, as each person has a chopping role. Bake from scratch. Prepare something from your cultural tradition, and recipes from others. If young people learn to make three new nourishing, economical dishes, they may have them for life. Needs of agencies who prepare and distribute food to those hungry are current and will continue. Support now and beyond as they advise and you can.
Calm naturally: Have a daily tea time with herbal teas that are nourishing and calming. Buy them from your food co-op. Create different blends. Nettles, oat straw, chamomile, and lavender are among those you might try.
Create: Endless possibilities! Sketch -indoors or outside-freely and to see more clearly. Make bright sidewalk chalk art to enjoy and leave for others. Create outdoor weavings with branches and twine, woven with cloth, yarn, and grasses. Learn/teach to sew hems and buttons.
Celebrate words and story: Read aloud, and make up round-robin stories. Write a letter or card to someone you care about and send in a decorated envelope. Learn phrases in a language new to you. Sing!
Move your body (and lymph system!): Stretch, yoga, dance together. A friend’s high-school aged teenager was missing her dance classes, so mom suggested she and friends find a park or field to dance in together, which elicited the ‘yeah right’ look and then…they did it!
Feel and release: Feel the grief, fear, sadness, but as washing over you and away, or blown by like dandelion seeds, or brushed away like a mosquito before it bites, rather than taking hold. Learning and sharing in meditation practices like mindfulness or loving-kindness may help.
Practice media literacy: Isolation and fear provide temptation for even more screen time than usual. What a powerful opportunity to teach about accessing reputable, science-based sources for information, and being discerning about what to take in and when, as well as learning through stories of inspiration from around the globe.
Carry on with love. May we emerge stronger and use the deepened sense of interconnectedness for the greater good.
Deb Habib, Ed.D., is a parent and educator. She and her husband, Ricky Baruch, are founders of Seeds of Solidarity in Orange. See their story in the new book : Making Love While Farming: A Field Guide to a Life of Passion and Purpose