Over the past five months, this column has enjoyed a host of community organizations sharing ideas to inform, inspire and support kids and families during the shutdown.

To date, Field Institute of Taos, Taos Land Trust, Silke West, Connie White and her kids on Straight Arrow Road, Growing Community Now, Taos Charter's Katie Woodall, Inspire Preschool, TIWA Babies, First Steps, Taos Behavioral Health, Mindful Frontiers, Taos Education Collaborative and hosts Twirl have penned articles ranging from how to help kids practice mindfulness to fostering land stewardship and a love of nature.

Looking back on the different topics and perspectives that individual writers shared, I am reminded of what the sum of its parts was designed to do. To provide, in the form of a weekly column, an ongoing sense of connection to familiar faces and friends who might be absent in our physical lives but remain present for us, and to offer an encouraging reminder that, even as social distancing has led to widespread and deep feelings of loss, isolation and separation, we remain part of a bigger whole: a vibrant, caring, compassionate and creative community.

One particularly big loss is that visceral sense of community that comes from being together in person. We humans are highly social and tactile beings, used to being out and about, seeing people, shaking hands, high-fiving, hugging, kissing, hanging out, laughing, chatting, smiling and energetically connecting - feeling the love!

Losing all of that has been hard, especially for kids who reside even more in their physical bodies, and has pulled at the very fabric of our beings.

It's no accident that the word "fabric" is also used to describe a society's underlying social structure with all the relationships, connections, customs and beliefs we share, which make it function successfully. Fabric by definition is a functional yet compromisable structure created by the intricate and precise weaving together of individual fibers.

Pull too hard on a few integral threads, and it's not long before things start to unravel. The same holds true of our social fabric.

We are all feeling a little threadbare right now. Finding ways to maintain relationships, stay connected and support each other is key to preventing the sense that everything is about to come undone entirely. Drawing on our patience, kindness, compassion, empathy, adaptability and flexibility will be key as we inevitably face more challenges, changes and uncertainties.

As we start this new school year, we need to put our teachers front and center to that effort. Undoubtedly, if you are a parent, you are feeling anxious about resuming your role of remote learning tutor/IT support/cheerleader/inadequate math teacher on top of everything else. But it is teachers who will be on the front line as they try to support students' expanded health and well-being needs on top of their educational ones.

Teachers are typically a student's first recourse for accessing essential services and outside resources. These needs will become even greater as families navigate the ongoing fallout of this crisis, and it is teachers who will be dealing with this on a daily basis. So it is more important than ever that there are systems in place for others to take on this critical care work so that teachers can focus on their students' learning and their own self-care.

Fortunately, Taos County now has four community school coordinators and a district liaison to help families navigate services. We also have amazing organizations supporting children and families embedded in the schools. Some have already shared their stories in this column (find them online at taosnews.com At Home with Twirl and Friends) and more will follow as we continue this column through the fall with a rich tapestry of guest contributors.

The intent is to remind ourselves that we are indeed a tight-knit, talented and supportive community, and with true creative, collaborative and compassionate thinking, we will get through this in one piece.

Or, in the words of Twirl's community programs manager and fiber artist extraordinaire Nina Silfverberg, let's keep the connections strong, a warp and a weft at a time. Thank you to everyone who has contributed thus far and to all our future friends including next week's Pamela Pererya of Media Savvy Citizens, who will share some timely tips on media literacy.

Thank you also to Lynne Robinson, Tempo editor, and the Taos News for making this column possible.

One last shameless plug. Do the census! And then tell a friend to do it. Taos is running out of time and millions of dollars in funding depends on an accurate count.

Nikki Ross is the executive director of Twirl.

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