We are well into our fourth month of isolation here in Boston in order to fight back against the Covid-19 virus. During this time, I think it’s fair to say people have been experiencing many emotions, most of them negative—fear, grief, hopelessness, anxiety, doubt, outrage, exhaustion, anger, sadness, stress, loneliness… I have felt these things myself, but there have been several instances when I was reminded that, even in extremely difficult situations, there can be moments of positivity.
The first person I heard use the term “silver lining” was my boss, Executive Vice President and COO Ryan Woods, someone I consider a wise and level-headed person. He said that, although the pandemic forced him to be at home while doing the difficult job of navigating our organization through an unprecedented crisis, he was happy to be able to spend so much time with his wife, young child, and new baby—an opportunity that he never would have had otherwise.
As many of you are aware, American Ancestors runs “Getaway” and “Come Home to New England” events several times a year where fellow genealogists come to Boston to consult with our experts, use materials in our library, and benefit from one another’s experiences in doing genealogical research. Of course, due to the public health emergency, travel has not been possible. Our Education team has instead created an alternate way of keeping these events going. Attendees gather via Zoom to participate in discussions, attend lectures, and have individual consultations with NEHGS scholars. Last week Director of Education and Online Programs Ginevra Morse reported that one attendee was someone she had not seen for several years—a woman who had become unable to travel but who was able to attend the June event remotely. To see her face on the Zoom call was certainly a silver lining!
I have found that time spent cooking, working outside, and doing puzzles with my 23-year-old daughter has brought us closer together. She had been all set to embark on a trip to the 48 contiguous states with her dog when the virus spiraled out of control. She decided to stay put for now, finding a full-time job and deferring her dream to a later date. We have a 15-year-old family dog (that’s 102 in human years for a dog his size). It has been a blessing to be able to be home all day with him at the end of his life—to observe how he’s doing and offer assistance if he needs it, rather than leave him cooped up in a crate while we’re at work. Our neighborhood has had many new young families move in over the last few years, and we had no idea who they were. Now we take multiple walks each day, stopping to chat with them and delivering fresh eggs from our hens. We trade puzzles and books and share our hopes and fears… We are truly a community now.
Granted, there are challenges to such a state of “extreme togetherness,” like juggling babies on your lap during meetings and asking toddlers to please keep their imaginary airplane engines quiet while you’re on the phone. I’ve attended online meetings with birds chirping in the background, cats walking across colleagues’ desks, and kids coming into the camera’s view and laughing because my cheap microphone is making me sound “like a chipmunk.”
But these are things that we can, I hope, smile about—because we can all relate. We are one big human family and our most important task is to take care of each other. We will survive because we can adapt and see the silver lining.
And come see some old friends at our next Virtual Research Program!