FORT POLK, La. — There is an old proverbial saying that goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” It’s meaning: No matter how bad a situation might seem, there is always — or usually — a good aspect to it.
I remember one such “silver lining” in my family’s life.
My spouse Susan and I, along with our son Justin, were planning a trip home to West Monroe, Louisiana, for Christmas one year while stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The morning we were to leave, our car broke down.
As most young Army families in the mid-1980s, we didn’t have the finances to afford to repair the car as we had spent most of our disposable income on Christmas presents and to pay for the gas for the trip home.
Needless to say, we were depressed. We had so looked forward to seeing our families and escaping from Fort Bragg for a couple of weeks. Justin was about 6 or 7 and was really hoping to visit with his grandparents and cousins. It was going to be a great Christmas.
To say we were depressed that evening as we went to bed would have been an understatement. There were quite a few tears as we turned in for the night, sure that we were going to miss a wonderful Christmas.
As we woke the next morning we were greeted with the most amazing site: Overnight it had snowed about 8 inches, leaving a sparkling white blanket covering everything outdoors. For Justin, who had been born in San Antonio, Texas, and lived there and the island of Okinawa in the South China Sea, it was a sight he’d never witnessed before.
For our little family, it turned out to be one of our best Christmases ever. Sure, we missed out on the family visit, but there would be others. However, that magical Christmas morning with its peacefully quiet pure white covering would be a day we would remember forever. Even now, we look back on that “depressing” Christmas as perhaps our best ever.
Why do I bring up an old Christmas story in April? And why now?
It’s the old adage I mentioned earlier: Every cloud has a silver lining.
We are going through a pandemic that is more devastating than anything I’ve witnessed in my nearly 65 years. Louisiana has seemed to be especially hard hit. Granted, we’ve experience widespread death and destruction before — hurricanes seem to cyclically hit our coast on a regular basis — but this is the first time I can remember an attack that is prolonged and shows no preference for sex, age, race or national origin. It doesn’t discriminate — we are all targets.
But as I watched The Weather Channel one morning this week, the talking head mentioned something that at first, struck me as odd, then as she explained, really opened my eyes. She said studies have shown COVID-19 has been good for the environment.
My first thought was she was crazy. Then she explained what researchers have discovered: Because people are staying home, there are fewer emissions from motorized vehicles, which in turn cuts down on the negative effect those emissions have on the environment.
Fewer people are driving to work — they’re teleworking from home.
Fewer people are taking public transportation, opting to walk or ride bikes — to avoid contact with others.
More people are cooking at home, cutting down on paper and plastic utensils, and thus reducing waste at landfills.
I’m sure that as the pandemic reaches its zenith, there will be other research that confirms what the above shows: We know how to take care of Earth; it’s just that we sometimes need to be reminded.
A couple of years ago in this space I wrote about how I was amazed when I put pen to paper to learn how much trash Susan and I produced each week, and what a positive difference it made when we began to “seriously” recycle. We went from two full large garbage cans a week for trash pick up to less than one-third of one can. It makes a difference.
Since mid-March I’ve already prepared more home-cooked meals than I did in the previous six months. Not only are they healthier than take out meals, but they also reminded me how much I enjoy cooking, and — most importantly — they cut down on the amount of take out waste, such as Styrofoam and plastic containers that aren’t recyclable in this area.
My wife will tell you I’m an optimist. I try to see the good in every situation. It’s how I’m wired. Sometimes that’s a difficult thing, such as with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pain, suffering and mental anguish it’s wrought on the world, cannot be denied. We need to follow the social distancing, stay-at-home orders and other warnings; if we do, we’ll beat this thing. Hopefully, things will soon return to some semblance of order.