Thursday, January 16, 2014

Storms Can Bring Out the Best in People

Swing low, sweet weather pattern...
I call it PV-14. No, it’s not some video war game or a jet fighter designation. Nor is it the latest flu bug or computer anti-virus, for that matter. Polar Vortex 2014 is the bone-chilling, back-breaking, accident-inducing North Pole blast that put Michigan and a good part of the Northern U.S. in a deep freeze. We’re, quite literally, iced out. That’s good news too but we’ll get to that in a second.
               Polar Vortex. I first heard the term on the Weather Channel. Sounded kind of cool, excuse the pun. Some scientists call it a Polar Cyclone. For those who are elsewhere and unaffected by this frigid meteorological event, please refer to 2004’s “Day After Tomorrow.” That sci-fi weather catastrophe flick can help you to gain an admittedly exaggerated yet undeniably visceral appreciation of what we’re experiencing. Thank goodness I get my winter gear from LL Bean.
               From a social harmony point of view, this crazy cold climate has brought out the best in folks in my neighborhood. I’ve witnessed and even participated in random acts of kindness all along the avenue. Seems a human being’s levels of empathy, generosity and kindness spike when unexpected reversals of fortune occur. Especially when it involves weather or the environment.
A present help; can you dig it?
               What a difference a prickly weather system can make. We don’t need an attack by space aliens for us to all be on the same page, dang it. All we need is Mother Nature. Remember in 2011 when Battle Creek was pummeled by straight line winds, a tornado, or whatever weather people ended up calling it? People were giving of themselves like there was no tomorrow.
               Humans and our machines. I like to believe folks wielding their chainsaws and snow throwers with all the generosity of Santa Claus is more than a simple matter of neighbors having an excuse to show off their power tools.
               What drives an already hard working person like Kate to venture into harm’s way to dig out a friend stranded in the weather? After all, she no doubt had her own snow drama at home. How about Ron? This white-bearded fellow toiled for hours, along with others much younger in tooth, pushing vehicles out of ice-laden trouble. What compelled him to help people from their snowy mess, doing whatever it took to see car after car made its way to wherever? Shovel, elbow grease, cat litter; you name it, he provided it.
               There are others. Like Brent who insisted on loaning my mom his generator during the recent power outage. Or Mr. McNutt a few houses down. He works tirelessly each winter to clear the driveways of up to three fellow retirees not up to the task themselves. For nothing more than a thank you.
               Then there are people like my mother and late father, parents who modeled to me, my sister and others to help those in need. Why? Because you can.
Oh the weather outside is frightful...
It’s a pity other longer-term disasters, those of a social kind (poverty, hunger, homelessness, discrimination, bullying), aren’t met with the kind of urgency afforded more in-your-face emergencies. Like it or not, these social ills are equally threatening and speak to our humanity (or inhumanity) toward each other. And I’m not talking charity or check-writing. I mean rolling up your sleeves and working in the trenches.
               Still, there’s reason for hope. After all, Kate didn’t wonder if her friend could afford a tow truck, Brent didn’t ask about the color of my mom’s skin, and Ron didn’t care if those he helped were younger than him. They helped because it was the human thing to do.

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