Monday, November 16, 2020




Ran across this cartoon by Stacy Holmstedt this morning. It got me thinking. If they were giving out free samples of self-awareness right here in Columbia/HoCo, would we try it? What might we learn?

In casting about for a decent definition of self awareness I came across an article from the Harvard Business Review which divides it into two parts:

internal self-awareness, [which] represents how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others.

external self-awareness, mean[ing] understanding how other people view us, in terms of those same factors listed above. 

Now here’s where I’m going to take the big leap and I may lose you. Buckle up.

Think of two local movements that are very active right now: Columbia Community Care, and the Reopen Howard County Schools group. Both were founded in response to a perceived problem. But I would posit that the former has achieved more success in meeting the needs it was formed to address. Could that be because leadership in Columbia Community Care combines a highly developed sense of internal and external self-awareness to create and implement their vision?

What if the Reopen Schools folks had harnessed their creative energy and resources to develop ways to address the challenges of distance learning, instead of existing largely as a protest group? Don’t misunderstand me; I fully support protest as a means of expressing concerns. But just imagine how much good might have been grown and nurtured by a group whose goal was to address the needs of students right now. These are smart, capable people. They could have created the “Columbia Community Care” of distance learning in the pandemic. 

Protests on Route 108 with empty chairs, candlelight vigils for children learning at home, and possibly even a “student walk out” event to protest not being in school? These actions betray not only a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the pandemic, but also a complete disconnect with others whose experiences are different from theirs.

Self-awareness isnt just knowing oneself but also having the perspective to see how we how we impact others. 

Right now positivity rates are moving upward and the County Executive will be making an announcement at 10 am to announce how we, as a county, will respond. The challenges of this illness on our community are increasing. These challenges will impact people in crisis who need food assistance. They will also influence decisions about in-person schooling.

Erika Strauss Chavarria of Columbia Community Care is already working towards a Community Center model for the future even while the group continues to fulfill its core mission. Might now be the right time for the Reopen Group to reassess their mission and pivot to creating and implementing solutions for students who are struggling with distance learning and the changes to their lives brought about by COVID-19? I think there are a lot of folks who’d be on board to support that. It could be transformative.

They’re probably not going to be giving out free samples of self-awareness any time soon. What will we do instead?

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