When we want to emphasize the hopeful side of a situation, we refer to the term “silver lining.” I am almost certain that you can think of a difficulty that turned out to be a positive experience. No one likes trials, challenges and glitches; however, there is usually something to learn, and in some instances, an opportunity that often ends remarkably. Here are three silver linings to problematic conditions that at the time appeared overwhelming.
The Athlete – Robin was an over-achiever from the time she was in elementary school. She was not only bright but also incredibly athletic. As she grew older, she became a highly respected attorney, she married, and they had two beautiful children. She was driven and never took a day off from her intense triathlon workout. She confided that some days she could work until 11:00 p.m., sleep for three or four hours and go out on a run with friends before sunrise. Her husband was good-natured and supportive, successful in his own right. He always cheered his wife on as he stood with the kids at various athletic events.
Robin was running on a trail and slipped on the ice, banging her knee. It was a “nothing injury” really, but it left her with nagging knee and hip pain. She tried to run through it, but the pain was persistent. Finally, she went to her doctor. She did a thorough examination and, after x-rays said, “I hate to tell you this, Robin, not only do I see some micro-fractures, but you are terribly arthritic for a woman of your age.”
Robin stormed out of the office! She went to a holistic healer who put her on an herbal supplement. As the months went by, her pain got so intense she had difficulty walking, let alone running. She sought a third opinion, a highly respected orthopedic surgeon. She was told to immediately stop running and that she needed surgery as soon as possible. She had no choice but to have surgery and rest.
In the months of her rest from all but light exercise, she reconnected with her family and realized that while being in shape was important, there had to be a middle ground. She was an over-achiever, and that was good, but she didn’t need to train as though she were an Olympian, not at 38. She is still a great athlete, but she now trains within her limitations. She even enjoys it when her kids train and play with her.
The Garden – Years ago, a retired schoolteacher lived in a neighborhood that some people considered unsafe. Nevertheless, she loved her small Victorian home and her magnificent flower garden. She was a pleasant person and a friend to all, but she didn’t know many of her neighbors, who kept their distance from her as well. She became lonely, that is true, but she accepted her life. Her garden, in all seasons, was her refuge. One Saturday night with the garden in full bloom, someone entered her plot and pulled and trampled most of the flowers.
When she discovered the damage, all she could do was sit on her stoop and cry. Her tears did not go unnoticed. A child no more than ten years old saw her crying, as did his father and mother. She began to tenderly salvage her garden, and they watched her. About three days later, the child crossed the street and asked the woman if he could help her. “Why yes, that would be very nice,” she said.
Over the months, the two restored the garden, and they developed a friendship. She learned the child was doing poorly in school. The mother and father told the retired teacher that their son was labeled a slow learner. “Nonsense!” said the woman. She and the child worked on the garden each day, and then she tutored him. The boy was not slow, but had a reading disability. In time, the woman and the family from across the street developed a deep friendship.
They now refer to her as “Aunt Florence,” and she refers to the child as “Doctor.”
The Email – A man and a woman had been co-workers in the same company for many years. They were “attached” to others, then “unattached”— you get the picture. He was almost 10 years older than she, an introvert and from the east coast. She was a mountain climber, very extroverted and was often on the dating sites. The two went to trade shows as part of their work, they had a wonderful friendship, shared a lot, but he was very proper. He never crossed any line, though he admitted feelings to himself, things about her he was afraid to express.
He adored his niece who was away at college, and they corresponded several times a week. He always ended with, “I Love You, Charlie.” One day, perhaps rushed, harried or just pushed by God, he confused his co-worker with his niece. He had to respond to a work email concerning an upcoming trade show. His co-worker asked him in an email if a red carpet would be nice for the booth. His reply to his co-worker was priceless: “I’m very busy today, honey. I don’t have much time to answer your last email. I’m sorry. I love you, Charlie.” The minute he hit Send he turned red and thought, Oh no. He tried everything to get the email back, even called IT. He wondered what he would do.
At lunchtime, she walked into his office. As he was about to stammer an apology, she looked at him in a new way. Softly, she said, “Charlie, I love you, too.” They started to date, and they are now married.
Life throws us challenges, but it also presents us with opportunities. What we think are catastrophes may be blessings in disguise. A fractured knee, a garden that has been destroyed, even an errant email may turn out to be gifts beyond our imaginations.