1.30.2009

Five Blankets In An Ice Storm


In case you hadn’t heard, we’ve had a bit of an ice storm in my part of the world.

Mixtures of ice, sleet and rain began Monday afternoon and lasted through all of Tuesday, leaving between 1/2” and 2” of ice on everything.

Throughout Tuesday night the trees began to snap under the weight of all the ice, sounding like a chorus of artillery fire. And indeed, it does look somewhat like a war zone around here, or as if a tornado had ripped through the area, with trees and power lines down all over the place and fences, cars and houses damaged.

Despite all the devastation, I think my memories of the 2009 Ice Storm will mainly be fond ones, centered on the hospitality of others and a lesson on contentment that I received in the unlikeliest of places.

No sooner than our power had gone off Tuesday afternoon we began to get calls from people who had gas stoves and fireplaces who offered to let us stay with them. As it began to get darker (and colder) Tuesday evening, we finally decided to impose on some friends for the night, and we greatly appreciated their hospitality.

Wednesday morning Caroline and I decided to brave the icy roads and head to my parents’ house (whose power had been restored after a matter of hours), but on the way we stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up some carbonated, caffeinated essentials.

Wal-Mart was swamped. Hundreds of people were there to buy what they needed, and the combination of the big crowd of customers and a small number of employees who had been able to get to work meant that the check-out lines were incredibly long.

As the checker began to scan our items, the young man in line behind us struck up a conversation. From his appearance and the way he spoke, he appeared to be of Asian descent or from somewhere in the Pacific. I immediately warmed to him.

He had apparently ventured out to Wal-Mart to buy a few bananas. He asked us if we had power, and I told him that we didn’t, but that we were heading to someplace that did. When I asked if he had electricity where he lived, he cheerfully responded, “No, but I’ve got five blankets. I just stay underneath them and it keeps me warm.”

It’s hard to know much about people just by interacting with them for a few moments, but if I had to guess, I’d say the man wasn’t at all well-off financially, didn’t have friends with electricity right down the street, and had been braving the storm all on his own. In short, he was far less blessed than I was.

I took my leave of him to make the journey with my wife and my 2-liters to my parents’ warm house, hoping the high-speed internet would be working by the time I got there (after all, I had been without for 24 hours, and that’s a tough way to live, right?). Meanwhile my Asian friend took his bananas and headed back to his dark apartment and his five blankets.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4.11, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Some people clearly have a better grasp on this than I do.

4 comments:

Alex 1/30/09, 1:13 PM  

I always find it humorous how Wal•Mart is swamped during "natural disasters" in Arkansas. People buying bread and milk, heading for the fallout shelter.

I enjoy those encounters like you described, the brief yet meaningful encounters. It makes me wonder if I should reach out to total strangers more, knowing that I could be blessed in such a way.

Justin and Heather Bland 1/31/09, 5:05 PM  

its amazing what we "need" isnt it.

Luke 1/31/09, 10:24 PM  

Alex,

I guess it’s not that surprising…since we spend more money at Wal-Mart than anywhere else (and maybe as much time?), it’s natural that it would be the first place we turn when things are tough. Right?

In regards to your second point, I feel the same way. I think there are lots of meaningful reminders in life, if you just look for them.

Luke 1/31/09, 10:25 PM  

Justin,

Ya, we get our definitions a little mixed up sometimes.

But seriously, we need to get together and throw the disc around (notice there were no quotation marks that time).

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