I am spending weekday afternoons with my five- and seven-year-old nieces, who are reading to me over FaceTime. It’s uplifting to watch them progress. It’s especially fun to see their faces lit and hear their voices bubble up with joy over what they most enjoy about the stories.

Where love is, learning is, I know. I have always loved writing and sharing stories — leading me to explore unending ideas in science, education, politics, pop culture, and sociology. I still remember my first published story as a tween in the mid-1990s. I was writing for my school newsletter about the information superhighway, aka the internet, where we would eventually do everything from dissecting frogs to campaigning for office.   

Fast forward to today’s unease and uncertainty, when many of us feel we are largely living online — to connect, to learn, to work, to entertain. And I am using this digital platform to write and share stories from all over America, especially now.

When I’m not working, I’m doing my best to nourish myself — exercising in the fresh air, eating healthy, keeping up with critical news, and absorbing moments of beauty, power, and faith. At my family home, I’m learning nuances of cooking — including planning meals, experimenting with recipes, timing dishes. It’s not without challenges: Panicked shoppers and grocery shortages feel especially dispiriting. And there are the pleasures: Chicken soup and banana bread are more soothing when the smells are wafting from our kitchen.

While I’m learning, I’m reflecting on my interview with educational leader Sir Ken Robinson, bestselling author known for the TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” He described the difference between learning and education. Learning we do naturally from the time we come into being, while education attempts to codify this with a planned program. In our chat five years ago, he also pointed out how with the current technology, we were able to personalize and customize learning as never before.

Now that education has reached a new inflection point, it seems that customizing should revolve around what makes one’s heart sing — and can aid the world at the same time. Educators, parents, friends, and our own curiosity should lead each of us to release this love, because the world has need of all of us — to contribute what only we can.

The other day, my mom, an educator, said to me, “We’re learning a lot of lessons now that never would have been learned.” Mine: Love is the essential quality of deep learning and personal growth.

What are yours — and how will you use them?