A reminder of our ‘moai’

August 17, 2020

Dear Wheeler Community,

This summer, I had the honor to participate in a small roundtable with Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the United States, more recently, author of Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. During the conversation, he referenced the Japanese concept of “moai.” A practice of Okinawans, who are noted to live longer and better lives than almost anyone else in the world, moai are social support and companionship groups of unrelated people that start in early childhood and extend throughout life, sharing in life’s many ups and downs. These groups are designed to hold one another uplifted and accountable.

This time of isolation from one another in almost every part of our lives is fraying our connections. And while technology can create the appearance of connection, it has been widely noted that the cognitive dissonance of online gatherings can exacerbate loneliness. So, as the days tick by and we approach school’s reopening, I make an observation and a request.

The observation: since March, we have seen the best in all of us. Our capacity to transform learning in a matter of weeks, to adapt to a new reality at home, to put community health first and transform the way we live to do so. We have seen extraordinary examples of empathy, courage, artistic power, and problem-solving. Wheeler effectively turned our insides out in the spring, and what we found there was a spirit, persistence, creativity, community, and a relentless drive to do better. There is good news of humanity and love in so many corners of our community in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and so many places.

My request: let’s use our masks this year as a reminder of our moai. Of course, we know we wear masks as the most effective tool against the spread of COVID-19, but let’s also wear them to remind us that we are human, interconnected, and vulnerable. We all worry about how the pandemic will continue to impact our lives, our loved ones, our nation, and our children, but our masks can symbolize our redoubled effort and commitment to fight for our public health with all our might, to demonstrate our commitment to the health of those we love as well as to those who are strangers. Let’s show the best of Wheeler’s #SpiritStrong culture and pass this along to our children as we face uncertainty with courage. Thank you in advance for helping with this effort.

By Allison Gaines Pell, Head of School

Wheeler W wearing a purple mask

Related Reading