A couple of weeks ago, the area I live in experienced single digit temperatures for the first time in 18 years. It happened again this morning, and is supposed to happen yet again a couple of times next week. Winter, it seems, suddenly remembered how to behave like winter.
If you’re from a colder climate, go ahead and laugh at us. Laugh at how schools start late just because it’s cold. Laugh at the bread and milk panics at the grocery stores (which I learned during the last cold snap aren’t limited to snow events). Laugh when we are surprised when we go to a store to buy some Under Armour and find nothing but empty shelves. When it comes to the cold, we are wimps and we know it. We freak out, and we know it.
We freak out because, in the south, we are happy with our average highs in the 50s with lows in the 30s. So you can laugh all you want, but we know the truth. We are usually warm while you are freezing your butts off. I’ll even take my 8 degree morning any day if it means I don’t have to endure your -15. I like not knowing how to use a snow shovel. I like not knowing that the only leisurely winter activity available to me is ice fishing.
But I do wonder why we are such wimps. Every day, I hear more and more people gripe about the cold, as if it just doesn’t seem possible in the south.
I remember plenty of cold days here in years past. I remember ice storms so severe that tall trees in the backyard would crack under the weight of the ice and fall. Some storms would knock out the power for days. I remember at least one big snow event a year. I remember my mother dressing me in so many layers of warm clothes that I felt like that kid in A Christmas Story who couldn’t even put his arms down. I remember the Blizzard of ’93. In a 1996 ice storm, I remember my roommate in grad school ICE SKATING in the parking lot of our apartment complex in Birmingham, AL. (He was from Pennsylvania, originally, where I think it’s a state law that people have to have ice skates).
So what happened?
Eighteen years happened. Eighteen years of comfortable winters happened. While we saw the occasional snow, we saw only one significant snow storm since 1993 in 2011. But no ice storms. No single digit temperatures.
We got used to the way things were. Now that the cold snaps are back, we act like we don’t know what to do.
And let’s be fair. 18 years is a generational stretch. Many young people have NEVER experienced this. They have heard stories, for sure, but wandering outside in a pair of skinny jeans and a hoodie just cannot prepare them for the invasive way brutally cold air on a windy day will violate them by penetrating the holes in their jeans and the thin fabric of their Toms shoes. Suddenly they will realize that scarves are more than just for fashion. At least their necks will be warm.
But that’s how perspective works, doesn’t it? When we have not experienced something for ourselves, we may not know it’s impact. Even if we have experienced something before, when you get comfortable with the way things are, you might not be prepared for – or even want – change when it happens.
- If you’ve been in the same career for 18 years, you might not even consider there are other things you could do.
- If you’re an 18-year-old high school senior who has let yourself drown in the hell of high school “drama,” you might be in for a real shock when you venture out into the real world.
- If you’re married, and your marriage has become more of a situation where your spouse feels like more of a roommate than a spouse, you might not see how things could ever be like they were when the relationship was fresh and the emotions were new.
- If you’re in a church that has done church the same way for 18 years (or much longer), it might make you extremely uncomfortable to even consider that there are other ways of doing things.
When we view the world through the lenses of just OUR experiences, we risk not being ready for change when it happens.
When we view the world through the lenses of just OUR experiences, we may not dare to take a risk to make a change when we need to.
The change may reflect just the way generations experience different things. Or it may be just the way reality can hit those of any generation as the world around us either invites us or forces us to change.
Either way, without at least the will to change our perspective, we will wind up just standing there. Idle. Comfortable (even when it’s not). Unprepared. Shocked.