A January column, “The Blessing of Light,” reflected on how the overcast days of winter are pleasantly interposed by the radiance of sunshine. Cynthia, a good friend since grammar school days, aptly related that sentiment to an old adage: “Behind every cloud there’s a silver lining.”
I don’t know if that saying is always true, or if like the wisdom quotes in Proverbs it’s a premise not a promise. Either way, the concept of searching for silver linings seemed worthy of a closer look.
Everyone who reads today’s musings probably has a silver lining story somewhere in their past. Sometimes, though, it takes effort to see it. Silver, I suppose, is just a lighter shade of gray. I’ll share one of my personal stories with you that’s still evolving. Then I’d love to hear one of yours.
My sense of direction is nil, a word which I believe is not coincidentally pronounced almost like my name. If you’ve read Joiner’s Corner for a while, you know I’m not opposed to exaggeration, but when I say I have no sense of direction, that’s quite factual. And in my case, it’s not a problem which is confined to unfamiliar highways or walks in the woods. It accompanies me wherever I go.
When I leave one of the exam rooms at Dr. Ricky Stevens’ office, I’m usually unsure whether to turn right or left in the hallway. If they blindfolded me and spun me around a few times, I could be trapped there forever. And if I am compelled someday to take a cognitive test with directional challenges, I may as well wave the white flag of surrender. Or run for the exit and pray I can find it.
Several years ago, my brother, Jimmy, and I went to see a resident in a Perry nursing facility. Our longtime family friend, Julius Bembry, was in the memory care unit at Summerhill. We punched in the passcode on the keypad to access that secured part of the building.
After our visit we headed to the same door, positioned near the nurses’ station, which we had entered through earlier. I tapped in the passcode, pulled the door wide open, then motioned for Jimmy to walk ahead of me. Our mission would have been successful had we been sent for fresh towels.
It took a moment to fully register I was staring into the linen closet. A few feet to our right was the door with no prizes behind it. “We better run,” I said to Jimmy, “or they’ll try to keep us.”
Highways are even worse than hallways. I’ve been lost in more places than I can remember. Back in my days with Burroughs Corporation in Tallahassee, I sometimes turned in less mileage than I’d driven. My thinking was it might appear I was padding my miles for extra reimbursement, so I’d shave off what I estimated was due to my own faulty wiring. That practice cost me a few dollars as my gas guzzling Malibu only got eleven miles per gallon. To break even I would have needed an Allstate moped.
One of my more memorable detours came in 1989 when our triplets were ten years old. Our family of five flew from Georgia to California and back by way of Atlanta. After we returned to Hartsfield International Airport, Jane and our daughters, Erin and Carrie, stayed with our luggage. Seth backpacked with me on the long hike to the ultra-low budget parking lot to see if our van still had wheels.
We made three loops around the airport in heavy traffic as I tried to maneuver our blue Chevy Astro into the right lane. On our third pass I managed, without effort or intention, to leave the Hartsfield property. Twenty minutes later a big green sign was pointing us toward South Carolina. Seth, his eyes brimming with unshed tears, inquired rather anxiously, “We’re lost, aren’t we Daddy?”
Feigning all the confidence I could muster, I answered cheerfully, “Oh no, Son, we’re not lost!” Then I pointed toward the sky and asked if he could see the plane that was passing over us. He nodded he could, so I continued. “We’re not lost,“ I assured him again. “All we have to do is figure out where those planes are landing and drive over there.”
You may be wondering how a silver lining can be found in having no sense of direction, and I’m not certain I can readily explain. But I know that a flaw, which can be frustrating at times, has taken me down some roads I’m glad I traveled but would not have chosen.
I believe it’s true that behind every cloud there’s a silver lining, but I can’t say for sure. A single story that’s only mine doesn’t really prove anything. That’s why I’d love to hear your story too.