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With Curiosity Comes Humanity

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Lori L. Hardesty
August 26, 2020

Five months of social distancing since the pandemic. For our safety and survival, we must continue to dig deep and follow the science to protect our hearts and bodies while our minds challenge us with memories of what was. Our mental health continues to be a priority. We manage anxieties tied to health, economic and social well-being. We miss foundational connections and outlets, and the freedom to pursue them.

Let It Flow

Have you ever allowed yourself the freedom to dive deep into something, to take your time to explore with curiosity? Uninterrupted time is a luxury within a quarantining family: two middle schoolers, a self-employed husband and, yes, a puppy. With video meeting after video meeting, I barely have time to refill my water cup, let alone allow my mind to wander freely. Previously, my lengthy work commute afforded me time to myself to think, now reduced to the creaky descent into the basement. It is not lost on me how much privilege I possess to consider these as my challenges. My family is healthy, my husband and I are working and our girls are self-sufficient.


Music serves as a vehicle to transport us to a happier time. A song has the power to immediately remind you of what you were wearing years back, where you were when you heard it (a school dance or pre-game warm-ups), who you loved, etc. Emotions and feelings come rushing back as you remember this more carefree time. Consider the role that music plays in your life right now. Are you experiencing it more or less? How do you feel when it is around you?

From The High Dive

In late April, BBC Radio 1’s Stay Home Live Lounge released a cover of the Foo Fighters,’ “Times Like These,” song as a fundraiser. This beautiful rendition features the band and newer artists, primarily from the United Kingdom. The closing slide lists the approximately 20 artists involved; some I was familiar with, others I was not. I eagerly explored the uniqueness of each artist that together, produced a soulful contemporary masterpiece. My daughter recognized one song, “Human,” by Rag’n’Bone Man, released in 2016. It touched my soul.

Pure Joy In Discovery

Another amazing discovery I made were twins Tim and Fred Williams (22 years old), who recently burst into the national spotlight for their response to 80’s artist Phil Collins’ song, “Into the Air Tonight,” on their YouTube channel, TwinsthenewTrend – YouTube. Viewers make song recommendations for the brothers, who then post reaction videos to the first time they are hearing a song. Tim and Fred explore all music genres, making no judgements. I admire how truly present they are in the moment; as twins, they are very much in tune with each other. They approach their craft with the utmost respect, carefully curating the musical experience.

When Something Touches You So Deeply

As far as I can tell, it was Tim who first began reviewing music. About a year ago, he featured Rag’n’Bone Man’s, “Human,” video. Tim immersed himself in the lyrics that highlighted people’s challenges, that we make mistakes and that we might not always have control over a situation. Tim absorbed every word as he felt the song, not afraid to be vulnerable in his response as he shed tears when the song faded out.

Bet On Baltimore

Non-profit Dent Education’s mission is to promote, “Equity by empowering under-resourced youth to discover and develop their innate creative potential to shape the world around them.” Their flagship, “Bet on Baltimore,” is a 5-week summer youth development program that blends design theory and entrepreneurship. Students share mindsets that give them agency to create change in their communities. I served as a Partner Organization with the Recording Studio site. I know nothing about music production, but appreciate the collaboration behind it.

Empathy Interviews & Expression

I met brilliant students on our first day. They asked straightforward questions. How did we measure true community impact? What mistakes did we make? A few days later, the Recording Studio students shared their prototypes. Their coaches brought expertise and worked to build community through purpose. One group created a podcast focused on police brutality. Another group wrote and performed a song about Baltimore’s Cease Fire movement to end gun violence in communities. I was not there to judge, but to learn from these young people. They expressed their lived experiences, hopes and dreams for the future using these platforms to share their message.

It Came Together

On August 13th, 2020, technology joined 250+ participants for the culminating Showcase. The program was entirely remotely executed, which required patience and trust amongst groups and staff. Performances and prototypes were amazing. Students’ wisdom and determination to challenge the status quo was inspirational; for some, it was survival. Humanity comes through the curiosity to understand and show compassion for another’s journey. Everyone’s enthusiasm was contagious. It was a finale like I have never seen.

Author: Lori L. Hardesty, MPA, is the Associate Director of Applied Learning & Community Engagement at The Shriver Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She teaches a Community Service & Learning Practicum, directs the Shriver Living Learning Community, and France-Merrick Scholarship Program. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from The Johns Hopkins University and MPA from the University of Baltimore.

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