Friday, February 7, 2014

Frigid Days, Warm Hearts

By Jim Owen

It’s already been one of the worst winters in years, and a new line of storms is slamming much of the country with heavy snow, punishing winds, and sheets of ice. The weather has been so severe that many areas have declared states of emergency.

But, dangerous and difficult as this extreme weather can be, it has had an upside, too. As history has shown us many times, there is nothing like adversity to bring us together. Billy Graham was absolutely right when he said, “Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.”

As exhibit A, I would point to recent news coverage from Atlanta, a city so unaccustomed to snow that a late January storm virtually paralyzed the city and left thousands stranded on the roadways. So what did people do? They trekked to the nearest interstate with sleds loaded with sandwiches and drinks. They set up hot chocolate stands at off-ramps. Aided by Facebook and Twitter, some with four-wheel-drive vehicles provided on-call taxi services. Others opened their homes, offering shelter to marooned commuters. It’s enough to make you believe in the goodness of humanity.

It does seem that in times of serious travail, it becomes easier for us to look past our differences. We can see others simply as people who are trying to get by, just like we are. We finally understand, on a gut level rather than as an abstract concept, that we really are all One.

This isn’t just a philosophical or spiritual belief. Scientists tell us that the atoms we breathe today could be the same ones breathed by Julius Caesar or Joan of Arc. That reminds us that we and all our forebears literally have been passengers on the same planet. What’s more, genealologists are now able to link 75 million people as members of the same extended family tree, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Couple that kind of ongoing research with our rapidly advancing capabilities for DNA analysis, and we may someday be able to show how every human on the planet is related.

The next time I come across a stranger in need, that’s what I’ll be thinking about. That, and the image of a hot chocolate stand next to a snow-covered freeway. 

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