Guest Post: MP Freeman Reacts to “Silver Linings”

MP Freeman is *none* of these things, but I do like the image. Clashing (or gently bumping?) opinions produce the spark of truth…?

[4-minute read. An old friend of my site sent a reaction to this piece, which was both too long, too smart and too well-written to stay in the Comment section. Mr. Freeman agreed to my posting it instead as a guest article.]



So what are silver linings? Are they anything like gratitude? I’ve never thought of silver linings and gratitude as being the same things. Silver linings are nuggets of good that you can extract from the crap heap of something that has happened. A team loses a game. What do they look at as a silver lining? Maybe their defence played well; maybe somebody made a good shot. Maybe they drew a big crowd. Those would be examples of gold that they can extract out of the pain of defeat.

This pandemic isn’t the same as losing a game. There’s something drastically different about this, compared to other situations where we might search for a silver lining. And there’s nothing like praising the defence for playing well. This pandemic doesn’t have a foreseeable end; a game would. This pandemic, much the same as other crises over the ages, has set the world into a tailspin. The best that we can say about the situation is that we’re holding on for dear life. And we don’t even know whether we’re doing that well. Sorry, but to say that we’re looking for a silver lining amongst all of that might be a bit of a misnomer.

The old age home where my mother is housed right now has been under lockdown since about a week and a half before the country shut down. Contacting my mom in any way is very difficult. I used to see her all the time; we would sit and talk over supper at least three times a week. And one night a week I would stay for the entertainment and sit and enjoy the time with her. But since the pandemic all of that has stopped. Calling the home to see how my mother is doing burns up valuable phone time that they can’t afford to give each patient staying there. I have an old school friend staying there and he has a cell phone. His sister told me to phone him and that he would find my mom and put her on the phone. But I can’t do that, because that would put him in jeopardy because of violating the social distancing instructions. And I can’t go into the Lodge to see my mother because that isn’t allowed right now. Where is the silver lining in that?

A lot of people have been left at home not going into work every day. You would think that that has all kinds of silver lining tucked into it. But that just doesn’t seem to be the case. People like their routines in the morning; they might even need them. Getting going these days where we’re stuck at home during the pandemic is not easy for everybody. Getting up is a step in the process that is delayed. Some people, I would even say most people, don’t keep their routines in the morning which includes showering, getting dressed for work, having breakfast, brewing coffee, driving to work. People have been knocked off balance by this. Where is the silver lining in that?

Getting food is an adventure. Finding the things that you actually want to cook is sometimes problematic. Being able to go to the store to pick up that item that you missed or don’t have in the pantry is nonexistent at this time. So you’re trying to plan ahead for your meals but it’s not the same as it used to be. I’m finding that the meals I thought I would want aren’t the meals that I thought I would have on a given day. Everything is closed during the pandemic. People aren’t traveling, people aren’t going to museums or to parks or beaches or the boardwalk. People are being told to stay, to self-isolate and to maintain social distance. Many don’t leave their homes for days. Where is the silver lining in that?

I understand the point of the series. Silver linings are hidden behind every cloud, I get that. I think what people need to observe is the act of being grateful. All too often people can’t see the good because of their focus on the bad.

I am grateful that my mother is safe; that she is being well looked after; that the report is that she is happy and not waiting at the door to get out or to see a visitor.

I am grateful that I am still engaged with people from work through social media platforms such as Zoom; that they are safe and at home doing their thing during this horrible time.

I am grateful that I am still able to go out and get food on a weekly or semi-weekly schedule, that I am having some time to explore my cooking ability and creating some of those dishes that I remember from long ago.

I am grateful for this time of rest and reflection; the pace of life is slowed down to one that is more comfortable for me at this time of declining mobility and exhaustion from the amount of work and travel that I’ve been doing over the last many months.

I am grateful that I’m not one of those people that are just fighting for life because of the virus that has hit the world with such negative impact. This time of pandemic has changed everything about the world that we knew before we heard of the coronavirus. Some say that they can hardly wait until we get back to normal. My question would be, “What is normal?” I don’t see the world going back to normal; there is no normal. There are some new lessons that I hope we learn from this; some of those lessons have been clearly delineated on social media platforms:

We realize who the essential workers really are.
We realize that all of the important things in life cannot be purchased with money.
We realize that politics gets in the way of living.
We realize that there’s a new definition of what education is and what it can be.
We realize the importance of the arts and literature and music.
We realize just how unimportant certain things are.
We realize that the highest paid among us, generally speaking, are the least essential; and the least paid among us, generally speaking, are the most essential.


MP Freeman is an elementary school teacher and union activist in the Six Nations of the Grand River territory. He is one of the finest teachers I know of: deeply compassionate, stubbornly logical, super-bright and unorthodox and determined.

Comment (1)

  1. Jennifer Phillips

    I see this pandemic as “individual pain for societal gain”. As individuals, we are learning things, yes, but it is at the societal level that the greatest gain could come if we learn the lessons that this pandemic is teaching us. We often learn best from our mistakes. We have come upon, for one, a lesson that was blatantly there for the learning: we are one. Our challenges are global: pandemic, climate change, starvation, inequalities, etc. We desperately need to learn to work together, globally, to overcome future pandemics, future climate crises, future challenges. If we had done this, in a non-partisan way, with everyone following the same advice instead of individual countries doing different things at different times, we would not be in the position of so many people getting sick and dying, and the economies being so affected. The same is true with climate matters; look how that has improved with an inadvertent, somewhat unified ‘effort’. We could make huge changes that would help all if there were a will. There are many lessons if we take some time to focus beyond our own lives, and expand our view of what could be. We thought that big change was impossible, but now we know that this isn’t true.

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