If someone would have asked me a month ago what I thought my final semester of high school would look like, I never would have described the reality I find myself in today. To think that just a couple weeks ago my mind buzzed with excitement of my final spring rowing season, senior prom, and commencement from high school. 

Now, the only thing that seems to constantly fill my mind is the COVID-19 crisis that has taken such a toll on so many people and families throughout the world.

My friends and I felt as if COVID-19 snuck up on us. One day we came into school talking about how our plans for the weekend were shaping up, and the next day we were told our school was being closed. I knew life was going to change as soon as my high school made the decision to close their doors.

Being out of school for a couple weeks now and so far removed from my normal life, I’m starting to miss the little things. I miss getting stuck in traffic going over the Ben Franklin Bridge on my drive to school in the morning. I miss rowing on the Schuylkill River with my teammates and seeing the sunset reflect off the city’s skyline. I miss driving down Race Street and taking in the views of Chinatown. I miss seeing the stylish outfits my Latin teacher wears to school as she never disappoints.

Perhaps I have the naivete of youth on my side telling me that this moment is temporary and I have a whole life ahead of me to make lasting memories. But perhaps as I see my father, a doctor, and my sister, a nurse, go to work every day and put themselves on the front lines, I recognize in a time like this I cannot be selfish in reminiscing about the mundane things I miss most.

As I look back on my years of high school, one thing is clear: my high school has prominently fostered in me what I believe we need in the world today. Going to Merion Mercy these past four years has shown me that what the world needs right now is an abundance of mercy.

The Latin word for mercy is misericordia, meaning “a suffering heart.” To show mercy is to have that empathy for your neighbor, to suffer with them in their hardships. As people watch the death toll rise as this virus erodes our country even further, I hope we can be a community of “suffering hearts,” to feel for our neighbors in the horrors of the effects of the virus.

However, our empathy can only go so far. We show true mercy when we act on our “suffering hearts.” This past week my high school’s head of school, Laura Farrell,  spoke to my senior class via a zoom online chat. In some of her final remarks she told us, “We have a grieving world right now and what we know about mercy is that it makes us stronger.”

In our saddened world, now is a time to extend our compassionate hearts and to cultivate kinship in our lives. Tangible distance doesn’t hinder our ability to support one another. Love and mercy can cross any ocean, any border. 

I implore you to wash your hands, social distance, stay home as much as possible, but also virtually reach out to your loved ones, your neighbors and your old friends. Check in with an elderly friend who lives alone: be that support system for someone who needs human connection.

In this time, I’ve been relying heavily on my faith for inspiration. My patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” 

With mercy, I know we can do the impossible, stop the spread of the virus and start the spread of hope.


Emma McIntyre is a captain of Merion Mercy Academy’s rowing team. She was also on the swim team for three years. She is a member of the Ministry Team and an active member of MMA’s Latin National Honor Society. She will attend the University of San Diego where she plans to major in biology and will be a Division 1 rower.