Silver Linings

Allan David Smith-Reeve, Thursday March 19th, 2020

My dad remembers the Polio epidemic. While it was most virulent between 1949 and ‘54 before the Salk vaccine was developed, there was an outbreak in Toronto in 1937. He remembers being confined to his backyard for the summer with no playmate visits except his two siblings. His dad provided an expanded sandbox and made them a swing for their entertainment.

A bit different for the kids today. Can they imagine no internet access, no television programming, no movies, no recorded music, not even a telephone?

Lynn and I enjoyed an online zoom call with our Bridges Peterborough “Storyteller Catalysts” yesterday. We shared “silver lining” stories about how we’re riding out the pandemic.

Ralph wondered how folks are being forced to discover contentment, particularly while now being on their own in their various situations. He also appreciated companies who were assuring payroll for employees during the shutdown.

Todd said the events had little impact on his routine. Living on social assistance, with very few social interactions besides our Wednesday Bridging Team get togethers (which he co-facilitates), he was continuing to live simply and slowly.

He didn’t miss the shopping trips. He didn’t miss travelling. He didn’t miss restaurant or pub shutdowns. At times like these, Todd could coach us about a lifestyle in the slow lane.

Likewise, Leigh Ann continues to homeschool her kids and care for an elderly father as per her usual routine. She’s keeping close tabs on those within her “pod” of germ-sharing (note new terminology for in-person social networks!).

Greg noted how the whole world is now experiencing what we in the Bridges Out Of Poverty cult call the “Tyranny of the Moment” where we live day to day, hand to mouth, and are unable to make plans beyond the foreseeable horizon.

“It’s like suddenly no one has a “future story” (Bridges terminology) Leigh Ann observes.

Greg was celebrating how folks are, for the most part, joining into a spirit of cooperation, following the advice of Public Health experts and government officials.

Kathi had a story to share about an abundance of new donations for her pet food bank. How, among her diverse network of folks, a man in Oshawa had a space he wanted to make available as another pet food bank. She was working with him to make it happen. To create a channel for these new streams of generosity.

Laura wanted us to know how her landlord at the Mount Community Residence had let all the tenants know that “whatever you need, call the office here and we’ll make it happen.”. She said it was like getting a big warm hug. A much needed hug in the midst of the atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and negativity we all also noted we were struggling with. “That’s some social capital!” laughed Laura. The value – take it to heart if not the bank – of knowing you’re not alone.

Tarin had her headset on an on and was juggling childcare as we spoke. Single-handed with her

husband in the states on a long haul trucking job (he also called during our chat) she was still not too busy to be out picking up groceries and meds for home-bound friends and neighbours.

Her can-do attitude was contagious. (note choice of trigger word here)

Lynn spoke of on-line grandparenting, helping to keep grandkids from squabbling, providing a listening ear to sobbing little ones, and offering creative ideas to keep their households occupied. The two village churches she serves had been receiving offers of help from neighbours. She noted how unusual it was to have help offered – even before the need was stated!

Mike chimed in from his phone (no internet connection) about how he envisioned an army of young people organized to care for the elderly and vulnerable. “In war time” he said “we send our youth off to battle. Why not ask them to serve their country in this situation?”

That vision inspired me to see how we are all, as Greg had noted, working together in this effort. It’s been said that to combat the Climate Crisis we need a global mobilization of citizens ready to serve and sacrifice as in a time of war. It seems to me that we’re now experiencing just that.

Like never before individuals, and nations, are cooperating on a global scale to fight for a cause together. Unlike our last world war, there is no human enemy. All of humanity are being called to serve.

Kat had another inspiring story for us from the Czech Republic where her mother-in-law has joined in this world saving effort with her crocheting hooks. Where she lives they have filters but no face masks to hold them. So, women and men are crocheting like crazy using a common design, to craft masks for the war effort!

The genius of human beings is our ability to adapt. We have survived as a species because of this rare ability. The power of our imaginations to create new channels of connection, generosity, and care is unlimited. Let’s keep sharing and listening for new ideas – those silver linings of adaptability.

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