Opinion: What does caring for a community look like?


Published: 01-18-2023 6:00 AM

Jessica Livingston lives in Concord.

When archaeologists and anthropologists discovered a human skeleton with a broken femur that had healed over, it was determined that that is when human civilization began. The fact that it had healed over meant that the person had been cared for by their community, meaning that their existence was deemed more important than their contributions to society, which were diminished by the injury.

If this is human civilization, then what does that mean for the people who have no empathy for those who are struggling, unhoused, or disabled? Does their lack of empathy mean they are uncivilized?

Recently, the Concord School Board failed a parent, a child, and a fellow school board member. Kate West and her 10-year-old child were in crisis. Unhoused, and dealing with the trauma of her situation, Ms. West was still eager to fulfill her duty to serve on the school board. Now, more than ever, she understood the challenges facing many of our students and families.

What she needed was time and the understanding support of her colleagues while she addressed the turmoil in which she and countless other families in our community, had just been thrown.

We are facing unprecedented societal challenges including a lack of affordable housing and access to mental healthcare, both of which Ms. West is facing, along with many other families in the Concord School District. If the Concord School Board can’t even support a fellow member, how can they be trusted to support our students? They put procedures over the health and well-being of Ms. West and her child, which reeks of class privilege.

This is a clear example of why we need more diverse representation in the school district and all forms of government. This includes representatives who truly understand the struggles that families and students are facing, and who have a stake in the success of the district because they have children in the schools.

This could have been an opportunity for school board members to show their humanity when approaching this situation where a young single parent who stepped up to do a public service was in need of support. And instead of vilifying her and focusing on loopholes and legalities, we could be rallying around this amazing young woman who dedicated her time and talent to the public, and figuring out how to support her and her child during this incredibly difficult time in their lives.

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I have always known the Concord community to be a caring community, one that steps up and rallies around those facing struggles. To see the way Ms. West was treated by the school board and some members of the media was incredibly disappointing to me, and surprising since I always thought we were better than this.

So again, I ask, if being civilized means caring for our fellow humans because we consider their existence to be more important than their contributions to society, then what does that say about the Concord School Board and the community’s response to Ms. West’s situation?