Visiting the Oregon Zoo during COVID-19 meant different restrictions and requirements than any of my previous visits. Masks were required in some places, and expected everywhere. Stickers marked the one-way paths to guide you forward, and to remind visitors to stay 6-feet apart. Most buildings were closed, and those few open had occupancy limits. And as the family who was ahead of us at the entrance learned, tickets must be bought online in advance because they sold out.
With all of these new rules, there were also some silver linings that I never expected. The limited crowds meant it was much easier to see the animals and less pressure to rush through to make room for another group. The stickers and signs were kind of cute and funny, highlighting that we are in this together. And there was already a lot of construction and change at the zoo, so the closed buildings did not feel like an extreme burden.
I’ve read and heard many times that there are new opportunities in this season as the world forces all of us to create a new “normal.” None of the good is worth the struggles of a pandemic, economic collapse, political unrest, social injustice, and all the rest. And…long pause…there is still some good.
As evidence, I offer the dwarf mongoose. Three little guys were inside a glass cage I had walked past many times before. There is normally a tunnel under the cage that kids can climb into; it has a glass dome so they can poke heads up right in the middle of the area. I’ve been tempted in the past to climb in too, but held back out of fear of getting stuck. During this season the tunnel and dome are closed off. And the room was emptier than I had ever seen it. So instead of cowering in a back corner or hiding in a basket near the top, one of the little guys was right up in the front. With no tiny fists knocking on the glass, he was able to chill on a cozy blanket. And I got to discover how adorable these littles are.
There are silver linings to any struggle. They may not be evident at the time, and they may not be worth the gray clouds they circle, but they are there. And those slivers of good are what help us make it through.
This weekend, look extra hard for some silver linings. And hold them tight.