My wife couldn’t sleep the other night, and who could blame her? Thanks to some oddball geography, our town seems to be home to a pretty steady supply of gusty, limb-dropping, window-rattling winds, and that night was no exception. By the time the morning rolled around, our yard was littered with branches and our full garbage can had been blown over the curb, scattering a load of papers across the yard.
But that’s nothing compared to what lots of folks live with. We spent some time in central Ohio over the break. At one point the temperature was -5 degrees and the wind was gusting to 40 mph. You don’t need to be a meteorologist to figure out that that makes the windchill … well, unbearable. Even a couple of minutes outside left you with no feeling in your face. Not sure how (or even why) people live in such conditions, but I’m glad it’s not me. It’s been a blessedly long time since I’ve had to consider the weather as something malevolent, something that could harm me or my family while we simply tried to live our normal lives.
Just the other day, I listened to an NPR correspondent interviewing a father of four in the Gaza Strip. The man, an articulate, educated professional, described conditions there as quite cold. Nowhere near what my friends in Ohio deal with, but still, I can’t imagine they are used to or prepared for temperatures much below 50 degrees. The situation was made worse by the fact that there has been no power in his home for several days, and they have to leave the windows open. I puzzled over this latter fact for a few minutes until he explained that the bombing created percussive sound waves, and if you didn’t leave your windows open, they would all shatter.
For some reason, this small detail of everyday life in a war zone struck me. When we think of war, we think of combatants. This man and his family were not combatants. They were just a family — not unlike mine or yours in many ways, I’m sure. They were coping as best as they could, hunkered down in the cold and in the dark, rationing food and candles, and trying to carry on their lives in the midst of conditions far worse than the wind and the cold that I’m so quick to grumble about.
There’s likely to be more sleepless nights for my darling wife. The wind doesn’t just blow here; it howls, and it does so regularly. The weather may be awful where you are, as well. But I assume that you, like us, can keep your windows closed and your heat on and your head up as you go about your lives. And as we head into a new year, that’s certainly something to be thankful for.