Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 16

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In her latest Share Your Stories post, Holly Elissa Bruno reflects on the controlling grasp of fear. Join in the conversation with Holly Elissa as you think about the latest news headline, Ebola, and how fear can alert yet blind us. 

Should I go to Dallas? Would you?

Thousands of eager and spirited early childhood professionals convene annually for a friendly, often crowded, bustling and eventful professional conference, sponsored by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). We fly in from around the country (and the world), riding shoulder to shoulder in trains, shuttles, taxis and cars. For four days, we interact, hug and sometimes sneeze, primarily in public spaces.

In our field, we share. We share rooms, cabs, meals, and intimate conversations. We are literally a touching profession.

This year, beginning November 4, our annual conference is slated for the Dallas Convention Center. When you think of Dallas, does either the Dallas Cowboy football team or a soap opera about rich Texans come to mind?

Not likely. We think instead of Thomas Eric Duncan who died from the Ebola virus at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. We think instead of Mr. Duncan’s two nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who now suffer from the Ebola virus. We can picture the deeply mourning countenance of Mr. Duncan’s mother, Nowai Gartay, in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Photo Credit: johavel/iStock/ThinkStock

Photo Credit: johavel/iStock/ThinkStock

Newscasters tell us that an elementary school teacher in Maine, who attended another conference for educators (at a venue 9.5 miles from Mr. Duncan’s hospital) has been placed on a 21-day leave due to “parents’ concerns”. Middle school students in Mississippi were pulled out of their classes because their principal had visited Zambia. Zambia is 3000 miles away from the Ebola outbreak in Africa. As I wait for my car to be serviced in Auburn, MA, I ask an employee: “What’s your take on the Ebola situation?” As soon as she finishes telling me how afraid she is, she decides to wipe down everything around her with disinfectant.

Should I go to Dallas for the NAEYC conference? Would you go?

NAEYC assures us that health precautions will be “heightened” to keep us safe.

Fight, flight or freeze: These are our usual human responses to danger. We dig in our heels and crouch for a fight. We turn and sprint for the hills. Or we hold our breath and hope to fade into invisibility. When the bear lumbers out of the forest toward us or the guard dog snarls and growls, we seek safety.

More than anything, we want to survive and we want danger to go away. When threatened, we can’t think clearly. Our system, under the command of the protective amygdala gland, throbs with adrenalin and cortisol. If we speak, we might say something we may later regret. If we make decisions, those decisions are not likely to be reasoned.

In short, we are rarely philosophical when we are terrified. Regaining perspective takes muscular effort. Because our core commitment in early childhood is “Do no harm”, we devote ourselves to protecting children. Even if we don’t fear for ourselves, we may question whether our being in Dallas will put the children in our care in danger.

Fear spreads faster than Ebola. When I mentioned that I flew through Dallas a few weeks ago, the person with whom I spoke backed away. Approximately 5 million people fly through Dallas each month. In fact, the entire population of Dallas would be quarantined if we all followed the standard used by that one Maine school system.

Photo Credit: Ralwel/iStock/ThinkStock

Photo Credit: Ralwel/iStock/ThinkStock

As with the Black Plague and the AIDS epidemic, fear touches everyone. Ask anyone around you about the “Ebola threat”. No one has been untouched.

What we need more than anything else is accurate, useful data: Will going to Dallas put me in danger? What kind of danger? If I go to Dallas, will I in turn put anyone else in danger? What can I do to remain safe and virus-free if I travel to Dallas?

Consider these facts which have been obscured by fear:

  • Dozens of people in Dallas have completed the 21 day quarantine. They are not infected.
  • The World Health Organization declared that Nigeria is free of the Ebola virus. No new cases have been reported in over 40 days. Ebola can be contained.
  • Theresa Romero (in Spain), the 1st person to develop Ebola outside of Africa (from missionaries who had been in Africa) has survived her bout with the illness.
  • The health worker who quarantined herself on board the “Ebola cruise” has tested negative for the virus.

Will I go to Dallas? Yes. Will I give my 3 presentations? Yes. Will I enjoy connecting with old friends and making new friends? Yes. Will we hug one another? Probably. Will I go out of my way to wash/sanitize my hands? Call me crazy; but, I am likely to keep doing what I already do, use common sense, and use hand sanitizer before I eat a meal.

Would you go to Dallas? What facts would help you make that decision? If fear has ever controlled your life, how did you reclaim your peace of mind?

When we are overtaken by fear, we can’t examine the facts and reflect on our options. Fear can both alert us and blind us.

At best, fear can offer us a second chance to research, to learn, and to make informed decisions. I am not fearful of contracting Ebola in Dallas. I intend to enjoy the conference and my colleagues. I do, however, fear for the children of Liberia and Sierra Leone who will continue to suffer until systems and resources can be put in place to protect them.

BY LEAVING A COMMENT, I hereby give my permission to Redleaf Press to use my story and quote me (all names will be changed) in Holly Elissa Bruno’s upcoming book on second chances, including in all revised editions of the book, in all formats (including print and electronic) now known or developed in the future, in all languages and territories, and in any other subsidiary editions of the book, and in promotional materials published by Redleaf Press, as it sees fit.


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7 Responses to Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 16

  1. Beverlyn Cain says:

    Primarily I was not sure as to whether I should go to Dallas as the media grabbed the ball and snowballed everyone with information that causes fear to rise. Then I thought about September 11. At that time, given the plane disaster and the threat of terrorism, flying became the fear. At that time, my daughter was a student at Temple University and I had previously purchased a plane ticket to visit her for Parent’s weekend. At that time I thought ” I am stepping out on faith” and I am going. I went to Philadelphia, enjoyed my daughter and returned home safely. At this time, I now believe that I will again step out on faith and go to Dallas so that I can meet up with friends and colleagues, present at my designated session , and I will return home healthy. I will take the same health precautions that I took whenever I traveled in Africa. Oh just so you know, I have not been to Africa since 2011.

  2. Cori Berg says:

    As a director here in Dallas, one who has had to navigate through the concerns of parents over Ebola, I’ve learned a few things. I reviewed our procedures for sanitization and safety. In the end, we realized that there wasn’t any more than what we are already doing to maintain health and safety standards on a day to day basis. Even stating that health precautions will be heightened could be interpreted as our school not following precautions to the utmost to begin with. I realized that when a big event strikes, parents – who often create a large portion of their identity through the relationship and care of their children children – seek the school out to ease their anxiety. They want to know their children are safe. If their children are safe, they feel safe. For the most part their children are, but I as the director am not able to give a full pledge that their child will never get hurt within our care. Random events that are out of our control do occur. There is always a potential for danger, however, it is events like Ebola change our perception of that potential. The role of the director is to stay logical, to provide comfort if possible, but not to add to the frenzy. And we need to provide emotional support to directors as much as possible who can become the magnet for everyone else’s anxiety.

  3. I will be attending the NAEYC Conference in Dallas 11/5-11/8. First, the family of the man who passed away from Ebola has been released from quarantine with no symptoms. Second, No new cases have been introduced since both his nurses have been quarantined are are under medical care. Third, there are no known cases of ebola in any of the schools in Dallas. Finally, ignorance is at play here. Why do administrators and educators not know the regions of Africa? Why do people still fear what they don’t know? I will take precautions: hand sanitizer, maybe gloves and/or mask on the plane. I will follow the news on WNPR (not the sensationalized, rating seeking stations) and proceed with caution and common sense. Looking forward to seeing you all there.

    “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

  4. Thank you for providing a forum for us to share our questions, thoughts and worries – you rock Holly!

    My story is that I have every intention of traveling to Dallas- unless there is solid information that steers me away. I will however travel with precaution; wearing gloves in the airport, long pants and sleeves to cover my skin; purell in my pocket kind of thing. Maybe some do this already but usually I don’t stress that much about germs in the airport. I feel a bit less concerned about attending the actual conference but am pleased to see that NAEYC is providing some extra steps toward precaution (bathroom attendants etc.).

    My wife is very concerned about my upcoming travel plans! We have two young boys at home and she tends to be the worrying type. I think I have had at least 10-12 articles forwarded to my e-mail reminding me that she thinks this travel is a bad idea. I find that most of my worry has been reassuring her and seeing what other simple things I can do to protect myself while I am traveling to help her feel more secure. Any other travel precautions, to protect from Ebola, would be greatly appreciated.

    Hope to see you all in Dallas,

  5. vmplumb says:

    I also thank you for providing the forum for people to share their thoughts. I am pleased that what I read so far leads to people still planning on traveling to Dallas so that they may attend the NAEYC Annual Conference and Expo.

    I have every faith that NAEYC will be taking appropriate cautions as needed and will also be attending the conference and traveling from Alaska to do it. Airports, hotels and lots of people. I will also have some extra precautions along with me; such as a pocket size bottle of hand sanitizer as well as extra clothing so that I do not have to double up on clothing like I usually do when traveling.

    Looking forward to seeing everyone there – old friends and new!

  6. Beverlyn Cain says:

    I also wanted to thank yo for this forum. It was needed.

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