Reflecting on weather—and the kindness of strangers

It strikes me as interesting how some dates seem forever engraved on our memories while others simply evaporate. I’m thinking now of weather-related dates, and obviously that’s on my mind because I suspect this summer will go down in the record books as the hottest ever for many U.S. cities. Records have already been broken in several towns across Tennessee and in other states as well. I’m guessing that in the future, we’ll refer to this as “the Summer of 2012.”

Even though it’s still June, dead leaves litter the ground in our back yard. I’m trying to keep the birdbath cleaned out for our feathered friends, but as soon as I put fresh water in it, more leaves fall.

Another year that sticks in my memory is 1985 when we had the lowest temperature in history for Knoxville, Tennessee: 24 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. In fact, we could “brag” about having the coldest temperature in the United States that night. It was cold the following night, too, around 18 degrees below zero if memory serves me correctly. We had an indoor/outdoor thermometer in our house, and I recall feeling relief when I saw the outside temperature climb to zero. Even though it was January when most trees were dormant, many of the trees in our yard and even in the woodland behind the house froze. The following spring, many started losing their bark where they had frozen and thawed, and some even died. I spent a good many hours over the next three or four years trying to save trees by removing the loose bark and painting the trees with a wound dressing. I saved all but a couple.

Then there was “the Blizzard of ’93″—a huge system that dumped copious amounts of snow on many Southern states that are not accustomed to that much snow and are not prepared for dealing with it. Trees and limbs fell, knocking out power to many areas, and some people were without electricity for up to a week. Radio stations stayed on the air taking calls from people who had not heard or had not heeded the forecast and thus were without their medicine or other necessities of life. People with four-wheel drive vehicles volunteered to pick up baby formula, diapers, food, medicines, and so forth, and take those items to people who couldn’t get to the stores.

There are many other examples of weather-related incidents that have created havoc in our lives. Summer storms, ice storms, tornadoes: all can destroy property and disrupt lives. The common denominator in all of these is that people not seriously impacted by a particular weather event (or even those who are) will rush to help those who are in greater need. For example, when a homeless shelter put out a call for bottled water yesterday, folks responded with enough bottled water to last the shelter for months.

Which just goes to show you that no matter how bad the weather may get, the problems it creates tend to highlight the good that is inherent in most people.

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