Getting By …

Theodore J. Coburn

17th June, 2020 10:26:56 printer

In today’s highly interdependent world, individuals and nations can no longer resolve many of their problems by themselves. We need one another. We must therefore develop a sense of universal responsibility… It is our collective and individual responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weaker members, and to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.

At the end of the second week of March, our school recessed for a two-week spring break. Globally, the COVID-19 crisis was beginning to boil. While Bangladesh reported a low number of cases at the time, testing was insignificant. During the break, we concluded to close the School for the balance of the school year. With the hard work of a handful of gifted faculty and administrators, and a committed faculty and staff, we were able to reopen as a virtual school--on-line--with many faculty and some students dispersed around the globe. It is quite possible that the school will open in September with virtual learning still in place. Only when all members of our school community can be safe and secure on campus, may we return.

Since the time of our school’s spring break, Bangladesh has gone crazy with rapidly scaling numbers of COVID-19 cases, and with the government’s earnest response to address the situation.  Many commercial flights have been scheduled and cancelled, until no more. Embassies have insisted their citizens return home, and have been sponsoring evacuation flights. We are six weeks into shelter-at-home as the country grapples with efforts directed to the arrest of COVID-19’s presence, and with the increasing signs and concerns for potential mass starvation of portions of its population.

As an expat and being eight thousand miles from home, I cry for my country, America. It appears unprepared and unwilling to act in unified force with the rest of the world to combat this cataclysm of infection. I fear for my country--leaderless, with bellicose and divided legislatures failing our body politic, in service, instead, to a morally compromised good. And I am concerned for my country as our foundational governing principles and our history as a nation of immigrants are laid hostage to a walled-in, environmentally threatening, and nationalistic agenda.  A moral calculus is replacing common decency with a willingness to wager lives against matters economic.

I received a call the other day from the US, a saint of a man, Tom, for whom I worked many years ago to pay my way through university and graduate school; and I made a call to a friend with whom I have a long history that includes an evening of coffee at Brooklyn Social. I sent an email to someone who I had hurt along the way through the years; and I posted on Facebook: my first post after ten years lying fallow. I reached out to someone I had seen for a period of time, going back many years; and I reconnected with another classmate from university and Merrill Lynch. Mastering Zoom and Google Hangouts has certainly helped in all of this. I talk late in the afternoon most days with a good friend right here in Dhaka, and with another in the Netherlands. 

 There are many shadows to life today. From the lack of personal freedom to the sentinel COVID-19 watch for breakthroughs to offset the losses--the fear and the anxiety never far from me. I long to see my sons. And through this time of uncertainty, I miss many people, all the more dearly. My faith is deepening, grounded in the understanding that we experience and serve the divine through our communities of engagement. For me, and for all us, the ways to be present in communion with others have changed, communities have changed, but they are still there. I am grateful for my faith, my friendships both new and old, my family, and the curious new ways in which to say I love you.

 We adapt. We get by.


The writer is the Director of International School Dhaka