Learning Matters: Give to the Max

Chancellor Carrell

Here in Minnesota each November we have a designated day on which all the nonprofits ask the state’s citizens to “Give to the Max.” This year our campus determined that funds contributed on this special day would go to our student food pantry. Last Thursday evening, we celebrated surpassing our modest goal of $2,000 and wrapped up the event for another year.

All day on Thursday my social media feed urged me to Give to the Max. Cause after worthy cause asked for my gifts, showcasing the needs and urging donations. As I attempted to prioritize the requests, I had a “Walter Mitty” moment imagining the response if every day of the year was “Give to the Max” day. Not only would the novelty dissipate, the donations would quickly wane as well. “That’s ludicrous,” you may be thinking. It’s obviously not realistic to ask people to give sacrificially from their financial resources every twenty-four hour period. No one’s bank accounts could handle such demand. Sooner or later, we’d go bankrupt.

Ludicrous indeed, and yet my daydream continued --- students, faculty, staff and alumni working on healthcare’s front lines – all have been waking up to give to the max day every single day since March 2020. This pandemic has been demanding that we pour out everything we have – not from financial reserves, but from a supposed stockpile of time and energy. Every cause seems just as worthy – studying, creating learning experiences, parenting, research projects, showing up for others, checking on elderly loved ones, grading, responding to email – the stream of requests is never ending.

No wonder I hear exhaustion in the voices of campus colleagues on Zoom and read desperation in Facebook posts. All of us in campus and healthcare communities are committed to each other and our noble pursuits of learning and caring no matter what the circumstances– but our reserves are depleted. We simply cannot keep “giving to the max” every day. It’s ludicrous to expect such a thing of ourselves.

There are many speculating about the practicalities of endurance during this time of challenge – daily routines, taking initiative to connect, finding ways to be creative, staying hydrated, clocking screen time, exercising, eating as well as possible, and talking to each other (and mental health professionals). I encourage us all to get very practical with a personalized life management plan to build resilience and reserves --- but for now, please simply pause to acknowledge some learning that matters: It is impossible to give to the max every day.

And so, as we mask and distance and isolate, as we grieve many kinds of losses and wait for science to produce a vaccine…Grace to self. Peace with less than perfection. And, sleep when needed.

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