‘Member that one time when we had to walk to school in -30 degrees actual temperature and the wind gusting to 45 and the feels like temperature was -60 and it was uphill both ways?!!? ‘Member when we never once complained about how cold it was and that schools never cancelled even with three inches of ice on the roads? ‘Member when our kids never had to wait at a bus stop or walk to school or rely on everything running on time to be safe out in dangerous weather? ‘Member when all the buses were new and always in prime working order with excellent tires and brand new batteries all the time that never wouldn’t start because of cold weather? ‘Member all of that? Yeah, me neither. But sometimes in my old age my attitude goes there a little bit. Yours? Like back in the good old days people like you and me and our parents and our school leaderships were tough as nails, and we not only went to school in 18 foot snow drifts, we ALWAYS had recess outside and never once complained and that was even when we had dress codes and so we girls were out on the playground in dresses and we considered it FUN! That’s probably not quite the exact way it was. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my “high-horse” allows me to get a little judge-y about how things are done, you know, now-a-days. Perhaps simply because we did things differently doesn’t mean it was better or necessarily worse, maybe it simply means it was different.
Days like this remind me how much anger and frustration there is in folk both with and without children, who are and are not directly affected by decisions like having snow days. I see and hear on social media all this rancor about the decision to close school because the polar vortex – sounds like a great name for a brand of coat – has descended. We oldies tend to refer back to how tough we were in “our” day by golly. Other perspectives invite us to understand how difficult and complex the decisions are given rural areas that buses travel with less than safe roads and bridges; the children who do wait at bus stops; and students who walk to school multiple blocks because they aren’t far enough for bus pick-up, the parents both work and the student can’t be dropped off earlier than they’re allowed to enter the building, so a walk in dangerous temperatures in not a great option. At the same time, what does that decision mean for parents who can’t afford to miss a day of work without losing pay, for some even at risk of losing the job itself; can’t afford or even find childcare; and face the option of leaving children home who may not quite be at the age to handle things on their own.
I’m thinking there may not be any easy or perfect answers, or that everyone will ever agree, but maybe we find a way toward a broader understanding in the midst of complexity that allows our blood pressure not to gust higher than the wind and our attitude and spirit not to sink us lower than the temps.
How have we come to a place where a small spark of difference enflames the depth of our anger and sparks even a spirit of hate? Was there road rage “back in the day” and we simply didn’t hear about it because we didn’t have 24-7 news and the full population’s ability to film everyone at their worst as well as their best moments? Or are we simply an angrier and more frustrated people now? Someone above my paygrade would have to answer that question with credible statistics I suppose, but my informal feel is that the temperature and timing of our rage is higher and quicker than maybe it’s ever been. All the time images, all the time information, all the time advances in technology making everything quicker to access and higher in quantity to try and process. What is the critical mass point of information and visual images overload, and have we reached it and maybe even blown past it? The next question is does it have to be that way for us? Are we simply victims of how fast technology has progressed and we can’t or don’t have any say in how life continues and the effect it has on our humanity?
I was watching a re-run of an old sitcom last night and a young son of parents who steer clear of any kind of religion or faith had stolen a lollipop but wouldn’t admit it. The parents kept hinting/leading him toward telling, but he simply wouldn’t do it. They leave for a date-night and their new and portrayed as “simple-minded” brother-in-law and sister come to babysit, and the next day the son gets up and confesses that he pilfered the lollipop. The dad is thrilled he’s confessed and asks him why and the son says because the babysitter uncle introduced him to his “friend” Jesus. The dad immediately goes to confront the brother-in-law about “manipulating” the little boy into telling by threatening him with a God who will punish him if he doesn’t tell and say he’s sorry, that he simply wanted his son to confess because he realized it was wrong. The brother-in-law smiles and says that he introduced the nephew, “to my friend Jesus who I can tell anything to and who will love me and forgive me no matter what,” going on to say that he would never introduce his nephew to a God he himself doesn’t know.
Some would say getting rid of a punishing God is what’s wrong with the world and where we’ve lost our way. Some would say living in relationship with a grace-filled God as known in Jesus is what finally will save us from self-destruction and hating one another. Probably it doesn’t matter what anyone says, but how we each live in the basic belief that we have about the person and character of God in the Jesus we have come to know and claim for ourselves.
That’s a long way from furor over whether a polar vortex should lead to a decision to close the public schools. And yet, if it wasn’t that, what else would we be angry about? Take your pick . . . politics, religion, the economy, NFL referees, a less-than-stellar defensive coordinator, a defense that couldn’t stop the last drive of the game, a pro player who lines up off-sides, ummm, I digress. Or do I? How do we deal with life and people and a world that is imperfect no matter how much technology we throw at them, at us?
The heart of the challenge isn’t really someone calling off or not calling off school, it’s not the weather people who either over or under-sell the storms and temps., it’s not the person in the other car who can’t drive appropriately, or the defense ranked 31st out of 32 teams, or even the person who chooses to believe or not believe the same things we do. The heart of the challenge is our own messy selves. We have to decide if the world, and life, and situations control us, or if we can choose how to deal with the circumstances that happen which affect our schedules, our expectations, and, maybe a little bit, our sense of entitlement that the world and other people should be the way we want them to be.
Below is the video that has gone viral with the Superintendent and a high school principal from the Detroit, Michigan, area sending out the announcement that their schools will be closed the next day. I think they’re candidates for The Voice or America’s Got Talent. In their creativity they may help folks smile at themselves, the circumstances, and in the process, perhaps defuse a bit of the likely tension and anger. May it be so for us as well on this frigidly cold, but no colder than it’s ever been but not as cold as it may get and not nearly as cold as it was back in my day or than it is in Minnesota, 30th day of January. And Happy Belated Kansas Day!!!