The expression “every cloud has a silver lining” dates to the 1600s and conveys that even the worst situations have some positive aspect. I have found myself using this proverbial saying frequently over the last three weeks as I seek to find and acknowledge positive aspects of this pandemic.
However, seeking these silver linings does not mean minimizing or ignoring the devastating impact of the metaphorical cloud our world is facing. As I write, more than 9,000 people have died in the United States – and even with social distancing, this number could grow into the hundreds of thousands. The economic toll that social distancing is taking is grim, with almost 10 million people filing for unemployment in the last two weeks of March. Lastly, isolation can magnify existing problems, leading to grave long-term effects on our physical and emotional well-being.
So, yes, we must courageously face this pandemic while also striving to remain optimistic and grateful. This is a mental balancing act that is not easy to do. Here are some silver linings I have found – first more broadly and then more specifically to Girls on the Run.
Many families are spending more time together. While adults with essential jobs may be working longer hours than ever before, many parents are now at home with their children. Time is life, and this is perhaps the greatest silver lining of all.
And time – life – has slowed down. We are a nation that equates busyness with effectiveness, and we are being forced to rest and take a breath. We have been given an opportunity to question things we took for granted or accepted as given and reflect on how these prior thoughts may have led us to complacency. Progress occurs in the quiet, and this pause will allow us to move forward with a heightened sense of reality and purpose.
While unemployment is at its highest levels since the Great Depression in the 1930s, we are a far richer country now with the government in a much better position to address the financial impacts. Experts believe the financial markets can recover in the next year versus the 10 years it took following the Great Depression.
The planet is benefiting from drops in both noise and air pollution. Satellites that detect emissions in the atmosphere show huge declines in pollution over major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Chicago and Atlanta.
Gardens are in. The arrival of spring combined with people staying at home has led to an abundance of new vegetable, fruit and herb gardens being planted. Much like victory gardens during World War II, gardening is a way for each of us to contribute to our own sustenance and helps support our feelings of safety and security.
Pet fostering is significantly increasing. Shelters have placed a record number of dogs and cats with people who now find themselves at home all day. If past trends are any indication, many of these people will permanently adopt their animals.
At Girls on the Run, until school closures halted our spring season, we were on track to provide our transformational programming to more girls than ever before. We did not let school closures keep us from serving these girls and immediately created GOTR at Home activities for girls to do alone or with their families. The response to GOTR at Home has been tremendous, and we’ll be releasing two new activities each week.
Girls on the Run attracts dedicated volunteer coaches, and many are eager to stay in touch with their teams during this time. As such, we developed GOTR Connect – a weekly group video session for coaches and girls to discuss the GOTR at Home activities in a safe online space. While we cannot wait to get back to our core programming when school resumes, we are thrilled to be able to provide both GOTR at Home and GOTR Connect in the interim.
Sadly, when schools started to close, some of our teams in cold-weather states had not even started their seasons yet. We are so grateful for the families who have converted their registration fees into a donation instead of requesting a refund. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on charitable giving as well as program fees and are incredibly thankful for this generosity during such a challenging time.
With this support, we are confident we will survive this disruption and continue to bring our mission to life across the country. Sadly, research shows that isolation can lead to long-term mental health effects. As the leading national expert in physical activity-based positive youth development, we understand the importance of physical and mental wellness, particularly in shaping how we come out of the other side of this experience. Thanks to the support of people like you, Girls on the Run will remain a vital and positive force for our girls, our families and our communities.