We are living in an unprecedented time. As the COVID-19 pandemic threatens our health and economy, many are taking the opportunity to acknowledge and reconnect with the good in their lives. We spoke with UVA faculty and students—from a distance, of course—and asked them to share some of the important lessons they’ve learned during this historic moment.
While our society generally treats these people as disposable, they are the unsung heroes of this pandemic, and we need to make sure they’re taken care of.
Joseph Williams, Associate Professor of Education
I’m not sure what new lessons I’ve learned from this COVID-19 experience, but I have re-learned a few things. If I could go back in time and have a conversation with myself six to eight weeks ago, this is the advice I'd give:
Spend more time in prayer. Prayer is a way to access and activate our hope. And hope is a currency that we can all use more of during these difficult times.
Give yourself permission to struggle. After six weeks of social-distancing, I continue to struggle with establishing a daily routine, maintaining research productivity, and engaging in self-care.
Find a reason to laugh multiple times each day.
Connect with nature. Simply going outside can help to relieve stress and improve your mood.
Find a reason to unplug from technology. Go offline every day for a designated period.
Be intentional in advocating for essential employees such as sanitation workers, nurse aides, bus and truck drivers, and grocery clerks. While our society generally treats these people as disposable, they are the unsung heroes of this pandemic, and we need to make sure they’re taken care of.
Finally, remember to love and care for your family, even though you see them all the time.
Associate Professor of Education
Professor Williams is an expert on educationally resilient low-income students. Read more about his teaching and research.
It has made me question what actions are useful and what activities are less impactful.
Christine Mahoney, Professor of Public Policy and Politics
Normally many of us are incredibly over-scheduled. We have back-to-back meetings, classes, talks, events, and conferences. In the normal day-to-day, in the rare case when a meeting gets canceled, you have this amazing feeling of a “found hour.” It's a bit of space to breathe, think, catch up, an hour that you didn’t expect to have, and it’s such a gift.
During COVID-19, I’ve had fieldwork and two international conferences canceled. At first, I was disappointed but then, realizing how many “found hours” I had—time I had planned to be busy but suddenly could spend with my daughter, with my family, and on our farm—it has been a wake-up call.
It has made me question what actions are useful and what activities are less impactful. Moving forward, I will work to cut out busyness that isn’t moving the needle toward a better world to make space for some of the most important things in life.
Professor of Public Policy and Politics
My renewed appreciation for those many small things has helped me meet students where they metaphorically are.
Kirt von Daacke, Assistant Dean and Professor, Department of History
Amen to That
This experience of staying at home and teaching remotely during a pandemic has reminded me how important it is to take time to savor and be thankful for the small things you already have and may take for granted.
Amen to that.
My elderly parents have been with us for almost a month. It has been wonderful to spend this much time with them and sit together each night at the dinner table. Getting to do this with my young son has made it even better. I’m deeply thankful for that.
Every day, I continue my ritual of taking walks in the woods alone with my dogs. I’ve always enjoyed it, but it has taken on new significance for me now. This daily focus on my natural surroundings began as a defense mechanism—too much time in Zoom meetings and overdosing on fevered pandemic news reportage. It’s still that, but I’ve leaned into it, spending more time soaking in nature’s beauty. I’m grateful for the peace, clarity, and momentary joy it brings me daily.
On warmer evenings, we all sit on the patio and listen to dozens of songbirds singing and flitting about or watch the breeze blow through the tops of the tulip poplars, hickories, and oaks. I notice the riot of blooms on the azaleas in the yard. I’m not a golfer, but I’ve realized there’s my own “Amen Corner” just a few steps from my back door.
Those moments, both solitary and communal, have been glorious and needed. I awaken each morning to a flood of emails and hours of meetings with students, many of whom need at least some reassurance, if not significant help, as they wrestle with isolation, pandemic news, and the like.
I’m not at all convinced that my renewed appreciation for those many small things has created a movement with students following along, but it has helped me meet the students I advise each day where they metaphorically are. I can only hope that I’m helping them in some small way.
Finally, I’m struck by one more small thing many of us in the UVA community wish we could savor—being on Grounds. I mean all that comes with it: watching the flowers bloom, seeing the University bustling with people, grumbling about students riding scooters on sidewalks, stopping to grab lunch at a food truck by the amphitheater, getting “stuck” in class traffic, and bumping into old friends. I miss my office, my colleagues, my walks across Grounds, the noisy hallway outside my office, and my classrooms filled with students. For now, I’ll savor all the small things I still have, do what I can from afar to help others in greater need, and remain hopeful that we’ll all be back on Grounds soon, happy and safe.
Amen to that.
Kirt von Daacke
Assistant Dean and Professor, Department of History
Music can be a source of warmth and light in times of darkness. .
Matthew Burtner, Eleanor Shea Professor of Music
A Light in the Dark
In times of disappointment and loss, I am reminded of why I originally sought music. It wasn’t for entertainment, diversion, or pleasure. It was because music can be a source of warmth and light in times of darkness. Music resonates in our hearts and imaginations, offering hope and inspiration to help us get through.
Eleanor Shea Professor of Music