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Even a pandemic brings positive aspects

Suzanne Wood April 7, 2020

“Every cloud has a silver lining” – the common expression that means even the worst situations have at least some positive aspects. What possible positives could you take from a global pandemic?

To be clear, I’m very aware of the death, worry and economic suffering this pandemic will cause countries across the globe and the pain and suffering shouldn’t be minimised in any way. As I write, there have been 70,569 deaths from covid-19, according to Worldometer statistics 6 April 2020. It’s imperative we remember at a time when statistics are everywhere that these aren’t figures but people, 70,569 lives ending before their time, with family and friends left bereft.

Processing this pandemic is no easy task and for many it will unfold in stages, mirroring the stages of grief.

Shock and denial, anger and sadness, eventually acceptance. Once we reach acceptance, individually or collectively, we reach the point where we can explore our options and decide how to move on. The phrase “when we get back to normal” is being used by many but before we all rush to return to whatever normal was for us, we need to think about which aspects of normality we want to return to.

Perhaps we should pause for a moment and reflect on the meaning of us, our purpose and life itself. Trapped by consumerism, engulfed by materialism, and marred by narcissism, we may have evolved as human beings but many of us have stalled on our journey emotionally, socially and relationship-wise. Our journey must go on but perhaps we can reroute somehow. If there are any positives, to me they look like this.

Climate change

Climate change has been on the agenda for some time, with many adamant slowing the world and reducing global emissions is a near impossible challenge. Yet here we are. Faced with no choice we have stopped the frantic rush hours, slowed global emissions and curbed the relentless production and delivery of unnecessary and rapidly obsolete items.

We saw how quickly the once murky canals of Venice recovered once the lack of boat traffic took hold. The air is cleaner. In some US cities air pollution is between 28 per cent and 40 per cent lower than the same period last year. Nitrogen dioxide levels in Milan and other parts of northern Italy have fallen by about 40 per cent since the country went into lock-down on 9 March, according to figures from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. That’s about as big a hint as the universe can send.

Community spirit and uniting people

We’ve seen communities unite and launch initiatives to help the elderly and vulnerable. People have been taking time to get to know one another, asking elderly neighbours if they need a pint of milk from the shop. Temporary shelters and sanitising stations have been set up to help the homeless, while designated shopping times assist those who need it most. These are all wonderful positive things but, if we’re to be honest with ourselves, these are things we should have been doing already.
Ironically, many are reporting that being in lock-down has strengthened connections with friends or relatives. People are speaking to friends they haven’t talked to for months or years, family rifts, once all encompassing, seem trivial and have been put to bed. Fractured relationships are healing now people have the time to repair them.

A young nurse holding a clipboard and talking to a little girl on her hospital bed

Our values

I hope as we move out of this darkness we remember what truly matters in life. As a parent, I hope to see a generation of children wanting to grow up to become doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, supermarket workers, chefs, delivery drivers, cleaners, postal workers, police officers, fire officers and paramedics – all those key, front-line workers who are helping to keep the country going. Our young people are seeing first-hand how important these people are and a shift from longing to be a reality TV star, footballer or YouTuber is long overdue.

I hope we continue to take care of the vulnerable and elderly, and our communities remain closer than before. I hope we continue to take care of those who financially need assistance as our leaders have done while reminding us “it’s the right thing to do”. It has always been the right thing to do but it’s easy for those struggling to get left behind when the majority are prospering. Perhaps now we will strive for more equality in our society?

Maybe we will be driven less by materialism and think twice before ordering unnecessary items. I hope we’ll continue to support our local shops and businesses that have stepped up to support their communities and those in need. And, while internationalism is and always will be important, I hope localism pushes forward. Modern lives have been so busy, many of us don’t realise the things we’re blessed to have on our doorstep.

I’ve met people who have lived near me for almost a decade and never ventured out locally, discovering ponds, woods, and fields they never knew existed two minutes from their front door. I hope we’ll continue to appreciate the simple things in life we’ve rediscovered having been forced to hit the pause button – birdsong, the smell of coffee in the morning, the enjoyment of a good read, the beauty of the night sky.

Finally, remember to look for the positives, even in the most difficult situations. Fred Rogers once said: “When I was a boy and saw scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.” This is something I’ve told my children on several occasions but that sentiment has never been as important as it is now. As JK Rowling’s wise Professor Dumbledore once said: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

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