This week I lugged my storage containers out of the basement and decorated for Halloween. I don’t have children at home, I’m not planning any gatherings because, you know, pandemic. My guess is trick-or-treating will be canceled so what’s the point? I guess because it makes me happy and feels somewhat normal.
October is tomorrow so for me that means cute ghosts in my tree, lights in my bushes, a spooky fireplace mantle and assorted pumpkins around my house. No matter what else is going on in the world, at least this makes me feel a little closer to normal life.
But what is normal anymore? People talk of getting “back to normal” but honestly, would society ever evolve if we stayed in the same place? There are plenty of ugly things in our past that once were deemed acceptable. Isn’t it great when we can change what normal is to benefit everyone in society? And normal certainly isn’t the same for everyone. Thank goodness for that or our world would be incredibly boring.
Maybe when I say “normal” what I really mean is comfortable. There is great comfort in doing things as I did before all the chaos hit. It’s why we do things like walk our dogs, binge repeats of our favorite shows, make family recipes, have our morning coffee and more. Doing the things we’ve always done somehow makes life more bearable.
But we all know that life is pretty complicated right now. We’ve had to quickly adjust to doing just about everything differently. Our walks include masks, our coffees are at home and our recipes are made for smaller groups. Yet we carry on. We find ways to make things work and if we’re doing it right, we’re doing it with kindness. It’s not always easy, but sometimes the little things make all the difference.
Like something MSU sophomore Madison Moran did recently. During one of her Zoom lecture classes, she felt bad for her professor lecturing to a screen of 50 icons. Wanting the prof to feel less lonely, she turned on her camera. Her recent TikTok, shows this tiny act of human connection actually lights up her instructor’s face. It’s a beautiful moment.
A simple video shared on Facebook of the MSU University Chorale rehearsing in an empty parking ramp wearing masks so they could be safe, evoked emotional reactions that included weeping. Director of choral programs, David Rayl says it’s not just the beautiful singing, but the power of making music together, even with all the current obstacles that moved people. Check out his Faculty voice: The power of music to watch the stunning video and read more about the group.
I try to do my part to bring comfort to others. I’ve started running photo galleries each week trying to bring familiar images to Spartans everywhere to make people feel closer to the university we all love. If everyone can’t be here, I can try to bring the campus to everyone. Check out this week’s gallery, the fall colors are starting to pop. And you can always visit the Beaumont Tower webcam for a live view of campus.
President Stanley is doing his part to make sure everyone has the information they need so they can focus on “normal” things like classes, homework, friends, working, researching and changing the world the way Spartans do. His latest community letter outlines resources for students, testing, contact tracing, football, a new COVID-19 dashboard, work and looking ahead.
Speaking of student resources, there are a ton of ways the university is working to make sure students have the support and resources they need for a successful learning experience. We know staying connected to others is an important part of the college experience. Check out this video where student Alia Jones offers some tips and read about more resources to help students stay socially engaged.
One thing that hasn’t changed during the last six months is the university’s commitment to discovery and research. And, since we’ll have the most powerful rare isotope beam in the world when the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams is operational in 2022, we’re poised to do some pretty incredible stuff. Yesterday, the U.S. Secretary of Energy visited the facility and designated it as an official Office of Science user facility. Check out the story to learn more about this prestigious announcement.
What’s normal? I can’t answer that. All I can do is be flexible with whatever comes next and adjust to the new normal that comes my way. And be kind. For goodness sake, let's all be a little kinder to each other. It doesn't feel like kindness is all that normal sometimes but it always makes someone more comfortable. Do your part in making others feel better. One thing that is always a comfort to me is that MSU will always be MSU and Spartans will always be Spartans. We’ll teach, learn, grow, evolve, adapt, research, discover, heal, create and make this hectic world of ours a better place for everyone. #SpartansWill.