How These Readers Found a Silver Lining During the Pandemic
If you wish you’d had a fast-forward button to push in March 2020, you’re not alone. But some readers found a bright side.
The coronavirus pandemic changed all of our lives in unexpected ways. But through all the confusion, isolation, and tragedy, some people found silver linings. For example, one man created an ice rink in his backyard for the children in his community, a woman turned her horse ranch into an oasis for her neighbors, and this nine-year-old girl formed an unlikely bond with six chickens. A group of strangers with the same name even formed a virtual band!
With so much negativity in the news these days, it’s important to highlight the good to remind ourselves that it’s still out there. That’s why we’ve rounded up the following heartwarming and inspiring stories—about everything from discovering new love and new passions to strengthening family bonds—that showcase the surprising beauty that has come from hardship.
My husband and I walk in our neighborhood every day. Early in the pandemic, we often passed a dog that would bark in greeting and bounce alongside us from inside an invisible fence. One day, the dog’s owner was outside, and we told him we would be happy to take his dog along with us sometimes.
And just like that, we had a new companion on our miles-long jaunts. Marlie, a goldendoodle, trots down the road with her tail wagging and her head high. She knows “heel” very well—luckily for us—and will stop and point when she sees a squirrel or rabbit.
Nearly two years later, we still walk with Marlie almost daily, even through Wisconsin winters. She sits in the bay window facing our house each day around walk time, waiting to catch a glimpse of us coming down the street to get her. —Lisa Young, Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Meditation in black and white
I always wanted to play the piano, but I never thought I’d be able to learn. Desperate for something to keep my mind off nonstop COVID-19 news, I decided to teach myself, armed with nothing but a newcomer’s enthusiasm and my son’s basic keyboard. After two months, my slightly noticeable progress inspired me to buy a digital piano. Playing became my meditation. More than a year later, I still learn something new each day.
I was so pleased by my growth and hope it can inspire others to learn new things at any age. In April 2021, I created a YouTube channel, “Jane’s Hobbies,” to showcase my piano progress and other hobbies. I also learned chess and play with my husband or son almost every night.
And now, my most difficult challenge yet: English. It’s my second language, and I’m still learning every day. Reader’s Digest is one of my favorite ways to practice, picking up skills, knowledge, tips, and ways to share love along the way. This has been my most productive year yet. —Jane Li, Saline, Michigan
Mellissa McFeeters for Reader's Digest
A new chance at love
At the beginning of lockdown, I’d been widowed for three years after 45 years of marriage. My husband was in a Vietnam veterans group, and so was Bob. He’d been single since a divorce in 1980. I’d see Bob occasionally when I brought my taxes into his accounting office. He called me in March 2020 to remind me of my appointment and asked if I’d like to join him at his church sometime. He sang in the choir. I also sing in my choir, so that sounded quite nice. I went in the next day to get my taxes done, and Bob made a little map to his church.
Before we even made it to Sunday, the world was in quarantine. No dinners, movies, or church services. Bob and I started texting, sending letters via snail mail, and talking on the phone. We called it “phone dating,” as we spent hours every day getting to know each other and, yes, falling in love.
In June, it felt safe enough to meet. We wondered if it would feel weird to finally embrace—it didn’t. We kissed and knew we wouldn’t quarantine from one another any longer. At ages 67 and 72, we are looking to a permanent future together. We were blessed with new love in a pandemic. —Linda Hamilton, Princeton, Minnesota
Learning to sit still
I never missed my 10 a.m. yoga class. I liked to be there early, pick the best spot to lay my mat, and do my warm-ups. Friends would trickle in, and we’d laugh and share our plans for the day. Then on to another class. Another outing. Another errand. Always on the go. I was like a bird—fly here, fly there, fly everywhere. Until the pandemic clipped my wings. And this bird perched on the windowsill and stared outside, forlorn. It took me a while to adjust.
I started practicing Spanish. I woke up early and dedicated time to writing while the birds sang outside. I honed my photography skills and now have an enviable portfolio. I took up calligraphy and derive a great deal of joy from my self-taught hobby.
But most importantly, I became comfortable with solitude. Mindfulness was something I’d only read about but never practiced. During this pandemic, I made a new friend: me. And I like her. A lot. —Natasha C. Samagond, Weston, Florida
Mellissa McFeeters for Reader's Digest
The road less pedaled
After spending two weeks on the couch, my husband and I decided to dust off our bikes. We started out with no plan other than to move, enjoy the outdoors, and get off our devices. School was virtual, work was slow, and we were concerned for our health. Short rides got longer and longer. We found new roads, got lost, and enjoyed every minute.
Over time, we picked up cyclist lingo, bought the gear, learned the repairs, and pushed our limits. We conquered hills and slayed the miles. We found peace in the back roads with cows, wild turkeys, and horses, and discovered beauty you can’t see from a car. The pandemic may be a dumpster fire, but it propelled us into a hobby we’ve loved since childhood. We are now addicted, much healthier, and much closer. —Chris Meyer, Lafayette, Indiana
My niece Morgan came by my house one day to ask me a very important question: Would I officiate her wedding? I was delighted to become an ordained minister online and marry Morgan and her fiancé, Trent—albeit in a much smaller ceremony than they’d originally planned, to heed social-distancing guidelines. Preparing for the wedding, reading scripture, and praying restored my faith. —Derek Roth, East Berlin, Pennsylvania
I had the pleasure of teaching elementary students for 25 years, retiring just before COVID hit. That summer, my grandson was gearing up for his first year of school. Then it was moved online, and my grandson was very disappointed. He is shy and easily lost in the hubbub of 25 kindergartners competing for one weary teacher’s attention.
We decided to have Grandmagarten every day to support his learning. We Zoom for an hour each day, having a blast practicing our ABCs and 123s. So far, I’ve learned that my grandson wants to be an astronaut when he grows up, that he is going to be the first American to walk on Mars, and that he is going to stop at the International Space Station on the way so he can study the nebulous planets. I live four states away from my grandson and would have never gotten this time with him otherwise. Grandmagarten has been one of the greatest silver linings of my life. —Melanie Anderson, Chubbuck, Idaho
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