The Silver Lining

“Despite all the turmoil and anxiety and restlessness and Facebook overshares, I have been so completely and utterly surprised by the good I see people doing… For every person looking to profit from the woes of the world, I see so many more who are working to do genuine good.”

There’s a proverb that says every cloud has a silver lining. Essentially, it means that every difficult or sad situation has a comforting or more hopeful aspect, even though it may not be immediately apparent.

Adobe Stock/Olha Rohulya

To be honest, I am not a silver lining person. I don’t naturally see the good in people and the cup definitely isn’t half full for me. That type of optimism takes work. That’s not to say I walk around like Debbie Downer, but I consider myself a realist, letting people surprise me rather than expecting them to behave well or nobly or — let’s be honest — like decent human beings most of the time.

When the cloud that is COVID-19 hit, it changed the way we live our lives on so many levels. For many of us, it changed how we work, it changed how our kids learn, it changed how we get our groceries, it changed how we socialize with friends and loved ones. For some equestrians, it changed how we see and interact with our horses (if we get to at all).

Even those of us who didn’t struggle with anxiety in our pre-pandemic lives now have a constant knot in our stomachs and a general feeling of unease with which we’re trying to learn how to cope. As someone with young children, I wonder what the long-term implications of this will be on their psyches. In the same way that the Baby Boomers still talk about crouching under their desks for air raid drills, will our children talk about how their activities, interactions and school were put on hold and the only explanation they received was, “We can’t because of the virus. I’m sorry”? Will they go through life waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under their seemingly secure routines?

As the child of an aging parent (but don’t tell her I said so), I wonder about what the upcoming months will hold for her. I’ve cut her off from my children, the store, the bank and all the interactions that make up the fabric of her daily life. I do so to keep her safe, but is this the right approach?

And I know that we’re all in the same boat. We’re all upending our lives in order to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe the best way we know how. It’s been hard and sad and necessary.

But here’s the thing. Despite all the turmoil and anxiety and restlessness and Facebook overshares, I have been so completely and utterly surprised by the good I see people doing. Sure, there are those who stocked up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer early and then tried to sell them on the internet for hundreds of dollars (and for those people, I have but one word: karma). But for every person looking to profit from the woes of the world, I see so many more who are working to do genuine good.

There are individuals making masks in their homes and distributing them to neighbors and hospitals. People are offering to help purchase groceries and food for those who can’t acquire their own. People are purchasing whatever they can — whether it’s an online gift certificate or mail-order products they may not necessarily need in the moment — from small business to help them stay afloat. People are checking in on one another just to make sure everyone is “doing okay” and “hanging in there” with a frequency they haven’t before. Heck, even my cold heart has been warmed by the check-ins and phone calls from friends from whom I don’t often hear.

Educators at all levels have been working hard — and sometimes around the clock — to create valuable learning opportunities for their suddenly homeschooled students. Schools are setting up meal distribution centers for the students whose only promised meals are the ones they get at school. Online companies are waiving their fees so that their products can be used by educators, businesses or just for people to stay in touch with one another. Businesses are shifting their manufacturing from whatever they made before the pandemic to medical supplies. Some are donating those products and labor. Employers are paying their employees even if the company is entirely shut down. Communities around the world are finding creative ways to show their gratitude to those on the frontlines — whether it’s with a light in the window or applause during shift change, they’re finding ways to show essential workers that we see them and we appreciate them.

Of course I am not naïve enough to believe that all of these acts truly are altruistic, but a lot of them are. And the acts, whatever the impetus behind them, are reassuring. They make up for the less-than-savory news with which we are inundated constantly. They remind us that there is good in people and in the world. They remind us that in frightening situations, there are always going to be those who look to help, not to harm.

The good work I see people doing in the midst this crisis reminds me of the Fred Rogers quote that appears in times like these:

I live in Pittsburgh. Of course I had to reference Mr. Rogers.

For someone like me — for someone who often doesn’t see the good in others and often expects the worst from those around us — this is a necessary reminder. It’s the silver lining on the cloud that we are hoping will pass sooner than later.