While running around Montpelier earlier this month I encountered several Union Elementary School students playing in their yards. I asked them, from a distance, if they missed school. In each case the answer was a decisive yes. When I said I do too—I substitute at the school regularly—they reinforced that it was the learning experience and the teachers they miss most, and of course their friends. This to me was a silver lining, kids who want to be in school. This is one of my thoughts about what silver linings might be coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID pandemic has taken over our lives, for now. Queen Elizabeth assuring us that we will get through this was a wonderful message but did not resonate enough for me. She is not “down under” like the masses facing this day to day, suffering the loss of loved ones, financial instability, our way of life, and our freedom. Perhaps this pandemic will bring us to a better place in the long run, back to more simple roots and family ties, or perhaps this is the final launch to a virtual world. Whatever the outcome, I need silver linings to survive this and get out from under my internal global dread.
The air in Beijing is more breathable; the water in the Venice canals clearing—those are silver linings. So is my experience watching families outside together, especially working parents with their kids, enjoying nature on the back roads of Calais. Communities are supporting their elderly and sick, delivering food, calling to check in, giving support, albeit at a distance. Phone calls, our voices, intimately touch those who are alone in their day to day existence under the COVID restrictions.
Gov. Phil Scott declared fitness as an essential activity, encouraging us to find ways to safely get outdoors. Our back roads have seen more pedestrian and bicycle traffic than usual this spring. It would be a silver lining if all those new to such activities continued to walk, run, and cycle after the pandemic. We have a high obesity rate in Vermont, an underlying condition at the top of the COVID high-risk list. In fact, new research shows that obese people are more susceptible to COVID and many other health concerns. Heightened physical activity helps address this problem. More recreation is a silver lining for our fitness, our mental health, and team building.
We may finally end up getting statewide broadband given the reliance during our stay-at-home period on virtual communication and activities. This reliance, justified by the pandemic circumstances, could also result in more virtual relationships and further the loss of one-on-one, personal communications, and the loss of interest and attention spans to gaming and other technological activities. Such results would not be a silver lining in my book but, for some, it’s a new way of living in the world and saving on fossil fuels, e.g., working from home and not driving our cars.
Increased family time could result in another “baby boom,” arguably not a silver lining given our world overpopulation. But, then, if life simplifies after this and adult family members stay home with their kids rather than both going out to work, that could be a silver lining for our children.
People are coming up with innovative ways to cope, such as singing with Patty Casey from their porches, holding Zoom cocktail parties with friends, and even styling with individualized face masks. We are learning who is out there for us and who is not. For many this pandemic is an overwhelming and depressing event that is difficult to cope with. Our silver lining must be the joy we will feel when we reach our new normalcy and can return to our jobs, our activities, and, most of all, to hugging our friends. And finally, when this COVID crisis is behind us, let’s remember to thank the essential workers who came to the front lines and our Governor who made hard decisions, all to keep us safe. They are the platinum lining.