CHANCELL-ING: Compassion Is the Way Forward

Mary Croughan and Gary S. May speak to a staffer on Wyatt Deck.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan and Chancellor Gary S. May speak to Melissa Cruz Hernandez, outreach and leadership program manager with the Arboretum and Public Garden, on Wyatt Deck during the Day of Reflection. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Over Mother’s Day weekend, friends and neighbors flocked to Community Park for the annual Celebrate Davis event. At the same time, the UC Davis Quad was packed for the Whole Earth Festival. All of this would’ve seemed impossible just a few weeks ago, when tragedies gripped our city. Each passing day is another step toward recovery.

Blue graphic of Chancellor Gary S. May with text: Gary May Chancell-ing. A town-gown newspaper column.

Over the years, we have stood together to increase housing, improve transportation, prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and establish Hate-Free Together. We joined together again over the last month, this time for different reasons, when extreme violence left our community shaken. I’d like to take a moment to thank our partners at the city of Davis, including Mayor Will Arnold, Police Chief Darren Pytel, Fire Chief Joe Tenney, members of the City Council and city staff. I’m grateful we were united again as we navigated many days of fear and unease.

The profound loss and tragedy in our community this year has weighed heavily on our hearts and minds. Together, we’re working to move forward. That included coordinating with the city to plan a Davis Day of Reflection on Thursday (June 1).

A need to gather

The day was meant to meet a widely expressed need to gather, informally, to reflect on these losses and their impact on us individually and collectively. Community members were invited to mourn our losses together, to share the many ways we care about and uplift one another, and to envision ways we can move forward. At planned reflection points, participants could join in public art and offer their own messages of grief, connection and hope. Participants were encouraged to contribute to the event at their own comfort level and pace.

The map included moments to pause and leave messages or ribbons (each location varied) at the Student Community Center, Wyatt Deck, Redwood Grove and the GATEway Garden in the Arboretum, the Compassion Bench and Sycamore Park. On hand Thursday at these locations were professionals and students from the Health 34 initiative, Aggie Mental Health Ambassadors and UC Davis Wellness Ambassadors.

In our own time

For those who couldn’t join on Thursday, the route will remain marked for some time. It includes the campus areas listed above, and it loops through downtown Davis. Participants can leave messages of remembrance at designated spots along the way.

All of us heal at our own pace. Whether you are grieving, feeling overwhelmed or even joyful, it’s OK. It’s OK to still be seeking answers and clarity. We are all in this together, and coming together can help ease our burdens, as we learned from the pandemic.

Davis is a great place to live and learn. That remains unchanged. The way our community members look out for one another, the lengths we go to show compassion and kindness — this defines who we are.

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column is published in The Davis Enterprise and Dateline UC Davis.

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