Lessons from the Ice

So winter showed up again this week. This time, it came in the form of a record ice storm that brought down trees and tree limbs like a Stihl 36- inch chainsaw. My wife and I woke around 4:30 a m. from the sound of the ice on the roof. We could hear the cracking and crashing of limbs and entire trees falling. It went on for hours as the ice built up.

I will be honest: This is not my favorite sound. Mainly because where we live that sound is invariably followed by the loss of power. When it is this type of storm, widespread and severe, we can go days without power. Years ago we bought and installed a 20 KW generator to bridge these outages. Most of our neighborhood has gone this route and the new sound of winter is now more like a NASCAR time trial.

What happens next, though, is very interesting and perhaps the silver lining. I have seen this now throughout severe storms and long outages. The phone will ring and someone will be checking in or asking for advice on starting their generator or asking if I can come out and help get a tree out of the driveway. We will start to bond over this outage the longer it goes. “Have you read the PECO outage website? I am running to the store, can I get you anything. How are the roads? Do you have heat, do you need a shower, do you need help to get out?”

Essentially this is a pain, but not a long term game changer unless you took a direct hit from a fallen tree. Repairs will get made. What sticks with me is the one-on-one time with neighbors and the act of reaching out to each other. When the power comes back on, we will go back to our more formal ways. I would like to think we have a common experience now and that, in a small way, changes the relationship for the better.

At ECS, we have volunteers who get this without an ice storm to urge their better nature – individuals who reach out and work with us at St. Barnabas Mission, Out of School Time, our Youth Program, and at Christmas with several different events for our families in shelters and emergency housing. They understand that every day is an ice storm for our clients and the touch that they bring is powerful and profound.

Francis of Assisi set the tone; “Preach the Gospel, sometimes use words.” We are called to service, words are nice, but deeds are so much better. The act of volunteering, answering the call to service, touching another life, is how we live our baptismal covenant – the operative word being “live”.

In my mind, this is the essence of Muddy Boots: To go into the field and work with individuals who need our support. To preach the gospel through actions, not words. To do so even when the ice is not falling and the hum of generators isn’t in the air.

The ice event gave us the opportunity to reach out to our neighbors. The gospel compels us to reach out also to a stranger and extend the same compassion you would to a neighbor.

Remember your backyard is bigger than you think.