Chicago's Community Response to COVID-19

"We Grieve Yet We Gain" by Cass Junior High School's 7th Grade Advanced ELA class

We Grieve Yet We Gain
Cass Junior High School 7th Grade Advanced ELA Collaborative Poem

(With special thanks to Mrs. Polacek for the inspiration)

We grieve the uncomplicated freedoms such as enjoying the pleasant weather outside with family and friends during this frightening time. An activity once so simple now can come with such dire consequences to our loved ones and to ourselves.

Yet, we gain gratitude for what we have lost, and we are thankful for technology that allows us to connect when we are not together. Though we cannot physically be with our friends and teachers in person, we can communicate with them as if we are, which can be just as valuable.

We grieve the organized classroom time to write important papers and learn so many things. Some find it more difficult to allocate time to work on their essays at home independently and on their own time, rather than in the familiar and cozy environment of the classroom.

Yet, we gain time to help our siblings who may be struggling to get through this. Some might need help with their possibly frustrating homework, while others might simply need a friendly and helpful pickup to lift their moods.

We grieve the loss of our freedom; the loss of being able to come and go as we please, and to have face-to-face interactions with those who do not live in our homes. It is all too easy to feel the loneliness and the desperation pressing down upon us as each long day passes by.

Yet, we gain freedom, in a sense. Without the harsh school schedule forcing us to be here now, and there later, we have the freedom to do many new things ourselves. Although we cannot leave our homes, we have the freedom to choose when we sleep, when we learn, what we do, and how we do it.

We grieve the tedious boredom that comes with the deadly pandemic. Individuals must find activities to bring hope and retain sanity and we lose the things that bring us joy and the time that was previously spent enjoying day to day life.

Yet, we gain freedom from the tiresome and repetitive procedures each day brings, allowing us to find fresh activities to enjoy. We now have the opportunity to explore the world in a different way.

We grieve miniscule interactions such as those between peers; the simple ‘hellos’ and the easy banter we share each day.

Yet, we gain the ability to be satisfied in our solitude. “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” (Pascal).

We grieve the lonely absence of our fellow students just as others sadly miss their coworkers, teammates, and friends during this horrific pandemic. Only an empty, dark, and quiet room remains at school without the typical routine in an enjoyable class.

Yet, we gain a lasting period of time to relieve ongoing stress from difficult struggles which may have been caused by something which is now suspended or has disappeared. This extra time helps place us in a better state of mind, where we are able to find new and pleasant activities.

We grieve the inability to go to the store and buy something we may need whether it is a new lamp, earbuds or even a video game. Moving freely and traveling about is no longer an option.

Yet, we gain more time with our family which brings a closeness we have not experienced in the past. We play together, watch movies together, and relax together like we have never done in the past.

We grieve the loss of not being able to see friends and family members, especially those who have compromised immune systems and who could be horribly and permanently affected by this deadly and spiteful virus. Thousands of people are feeling lonely, somber, and restless because this virus is non discriminatory and strikes with no warning.

Yet, we gain a stronger connection to our community that was not evident in the past, and everyone is growing to be helpful, calm, and careful. People are working together like a hardworking, strong-willed, powerful team while building an incredible and lasting bond that will outlive this virus.

We grieve the experience of not being able to attend school which, ironically, we sometimes thought was the most terrible place to be before this pandemic began! We yearn to return to a sense of normalcy again, such as sitting at our desks, going to classes together, and being able to learn from our astonishing teachers in person.

Yet, we gain the time to improve on skills and activities we have never had time to work on before, while following the rules that are newly established during this dangerous pandemic. Even though we follow strict rules, we still have time to try different routines while staying safe and healthy.

We grieve the loss of the ability to talk to our wonderful teachers face-to-face in a safe school environment where we can see our friends and enjoy time together. It can make hard assignments more difficult, especially when instructions and work can be more difficult to understand when there is no direct contact.

Yet, we gain the ability to complete school assignments from our safe and shielded homes and on our own time, rather than on a strict school schedule. Some work takes less time depending on how we tackle the assignments, as we can work around lunch, and we can change the order of our classes to make it easier and to give us more freedom and choice.

We grieve the innocence of life before the fear of this horrible and deadly virus took over our lives. Although our youth and strong immune systems may protect us from serious harm, we shoulder the worry and fear about family members who could potentially die if they catch the virus.

Yet, we gain the time to catch up on anything and everything we are behind in. Without a strict schedule we are given the gift of spare time so we no longer fall behind in any of our classes, and we have time to catch up on school work and activities that we may have pushed aside in the past.

We grieve the absence of sports and other outdoor activities that are enjoyed in groups. Many of us have worked diligently for a new season to start or to finish a season we were participating in before life came to a stop. The adrenaline of participating in a sport gives you a feeling that cannot be matched by anything else. The cheering and celebration after a perfect play is what many of us live for, and it has disappeared for now.

Yet, we gain the ability to find and explore new hobbies. Most of us have very strict and busy schedules during the school year, and now we suddenly have so much free time. During the times of this pandemic people need something to take their minds off of the fear and panic around them, and having the time to try out new things helps to ease this fear.

We grieve the lives lost during this invisible and evil war and we wonder why loving and productive lives are taken too soon. Death leaves us with an awful feeling of emptiness as if we are tumbling down a deep, black, hole of darkness.

Yet, we gain incredible support from our large community and our loving family members. This is a time for endless hope as we need to cherish everyday and remember our favorite memories of the people who are losing this tragic fight too early.

We grieve the loss of being able to go outside, instead we live in fear, anxiety, and despair. Many people do not feel safe around their dear, loving, and caring friends and are forced to distance themselves to survive.

Yet, we gain a deeper appreciation for our heroic medical workers, who labor tirelessly to help the sick and dying people. They are like brave soldiers as they go and risk their own important lives for the desperate needs of others.

We grieve the loss of being social and engaging with others in a public setting. Feelings of loss, loneliness, and captivity take over and leave us longing for a touch from the outside.

Yet, we gain freedom inside our homes to try new things and become better versions of ourselves. We gain control, independence, and freedom over ourselves. This can be used to create a stronger connection with one’s mind and body.

We grieve the losses that carve out the heart of humankind as we now understand how directly we affect each other. Recognizing the importance of emotion and interaction, at times we are forced into a depriving isolation of depression and terror.

Yet, we gain an understanding of the power of ignorance as we learn to value our loved ones and every living individual who contributes to mankind. Retreating into solitude, we are given a chance to reflect upon our actions, hoping we can eventually better humanity after our generation matures and is put into positions of power in society.

We grieve the loss of not being able to celebrate a family member or a friend's birthday or special occasion. Celebrating a loved one’s birthday is an appreciable time for bonding and love. For many, the loss of not being able to celebrate his or her birthday with family or friends is devastating.

Yet, we gain other new and creative ways to make a loved one’s birthday special. Simply wishing a person a happy birthday while driving past their house and leaving a card with flowers on their front porch can be as important and touching as a birthday party.

We grieve the ability to do activities and sports outside of our homes. While we are able to do activities inside, it is always more amusing and enjoyable to be out of the house. The weather is finally getting nice and we, sadly, cannot go anywhere other than our yards to enjoy it.

Yet, we gain better, closer connections and relationships with family. It is important to spend time with family during this time because if we are going to be together for an extended period of time, we need one another for support, love, and encouragement

We grieve the loss of being able to go to restaurants with family and friends and being able to sit down and smell the fresh aromas of whatever the restaurant was making. We also grieve the ability to interact with one another, while enjoying fresh, gourmet foods.

Yet, we gain more quality time with our families, getting to know more about what is happening in their lives, and simply just being able to talk to them without being in a hurry. For many people what was once impossible to do is now a reality.

We grieve the loss of being outside safely and spending time with friends and family. We are forced to stay inside, lonely, and we do not have the ability to physically interact with our friends, family and even our teammates because all sports are cancelled.

Yet, we gain the ability to learn new things that we do not learn in school. We can find new hobbies and find activities that we would have never tried if it were not for all this extra time he had because of this historic pandemic.

We grieve the loss of being able to ask our teachers questions and the ability to see them and interact with them in person while learning. We no longer hear our classmates or teachers tell jokes, and the world seems extra grim.

Yet, we gain the chance to learn something new we always wanted to learn but never had the time to explore. We are pushed away from the many hours spent in school, and can instead learn different things or start new hobbies.

We grieve the ability to make memories of warm friendships and blooming spring flowers. We lose the chance to go outside and hear the chirping birds or to dance in the gentle rain. Dances, vacations, sports, and field trips are withheld and canceled for safety’s sake. This leaves only repetitive hobbies and tasks that feel like a broken record, replaying the same song over and over.

Yet, we gain a story that will be with us for the rest of our lives. The seemingly unimportant events that led to a disaster few believed would come. The memory of a tragedy that we, collectively, worked so hard to survive. We are now a part of history. We now have memories to recite as our grandchildren listen closely, appreciating their own freedoms. This disease will not be forgotten. While it may be grim, it will one day be a thing of the past, and the past will be remembered and embraced for the growth and the strength we exhibited during such a difficult time.

Next page