Tuesday, February 2, 2016

It Takes A Village

"It takes a village..."  Anonymous

"For too long in this society we have celebrated unrestrained individualism over common community"  Joe Biden

 Two weeks ago in my last newsletter I mentioned that we were not experiencing much of a normal winter in these parts. Temperatures had been higher than normal, plants were still blooming, and snow was nowhere to be seen. I did mention that the glory of the winter skies was still there and that we could know what season it was by looking up at night and in the early morning. That is still true-the stars and constellations are magnificent, the full moon came when it was supposed to, and if one gets up at about 5:30AM in the morning and looks southeastward, one can see a wonderful rare event-the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter seemingly in a straight line. This rare "alignment" occurrence is in the sky from now until February 20, and it is a sight to behold. The skies have been in winter mode all along, and that alignment has only added to it.
But last weekend we finally got the "on the ground" proof that it is winter in the form of one of the largest snow storms to hit the area. From Friday through  Sunday morning we were hit with steady to heavy snowfall, winds that were gusting up to 50 miles per hour, and accumulations that ranged from 19 to 23 inches. Neighborhoods were buried, transit was halted, folks were stranded and life as we are used to came to pretty much a standstill. We had been warned, and people had stocked up on eggs and milk and cereal and the staples that we seem to need at times like this, and most of us just hunkered down. We stayed inside wherever we were and prayed as we waited that we would we would not lose power, that trees and tides would not do damage to our houses, streets or apartments, and that we would once again get through this as we always seem to do. Sunday revealed the damage and saw the region struggling with beginning the digging out and recovery. Plows worked the streets, transit workers, street workers, and snow shovelers did their thing, and slowly, sometimes frustratingly, we accomplished things. It was and is difficult. But one of the great things about all of this from my perspective is the way neighbors and strangers and people of all ages came together to help each other solve problems, find solutions, and meet the challenges. I live in West Mount Airy, and one of the things I love about my neighborhood is the way we work together in a time of crisis. People of all ages helped shovel each other out, volunteered space in their yard and driveway to put the snow, helped shovel off walks of sick or elderly folks, pushed cars out of spots, and more. And that is how we regularly respond to snowstorms. Shortly after we moved into the area Philadelphia had a terrible storm in 1994. The people in our neighborhood got together and literally went block by block from one end of each street to the other, shoveling together to clear the street and freeing cars. Some folks made and served hot chocolate, coffee,and snacks while others shoveled, and that experience cemented me to the neighborhood. From that experience we set up a fund to hire a snowplow to come around during storms, and we still do the "help each other out" thing when there is a crisis. It is who we are, and it is wonderful.

And  I know that we are far from the only neighborhood to do this type of thing. I have talked to a lot of folks over the years who are fortunate enough to live in places or on streets that work the same way. And I am sure you saw newspaper coverage and TV stories about strangers helping dig people out and helping stranded travelers and more during Storm Jonas. That "connectedness" and helpfulness of people is often something that we take for granted or forget about. Then something likes this storm comes up, and the wonder, beauty and necessity of it is front and center and impossible to ignore.  We are brought face to face with the simple fact that as humans we need each other and that no one lives a good life totally by themselves.  Yes, my back hurt for a while, and, yes, traveling around was still a hassle for a few days, and yes, some of the effects of the storm are still visible. But there is also a warm feeling and an extended, "Thank you" to my neighbors and friends for making the storm bearable and for making this such a wonderful place to live. I hope you are all finding necessary help and support in dealing with the storm, its effects, and other things that come up in life. And I hope that you occasionally get to experience the quiet wonders and power of that thing called, "community". As a good friend of mine  says, "If we're lucky, no one will get out of this life alone." I hope that was and is part of your life experience.  Be well

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