I can hear the ice falling and it is comforting from my warm, safe place as the night nears end. Countless other situations could make the sound land differently on these ears. But tonight…a worn copy of Wendell Berry poetry, a refreshment of note and preparations for snow make it all just fine.
A fleeting memory returns of an ice storm in the early 90’s. It came quickly and harshly, sending many of us into emergency activation. I was living far out in the country and serving as the Director of EMS at the time; I had to go in. It wasn’t optional. The ice came faster than anyone imagined and by the time we activated our Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the trees had already started falling.
Feeling successful upon making it out of the long drive down our hill, I pulled onto the country road certain that my years of driving on snowy Kentucky roads would carry me confidently to the EOC where I could fulfill my duties. Until I came upon a big tree across the road. Bigger than me, bigger than my truck could cross and perhaps just “bigger” because it was dark and late and scary. And very cold! I got out and looked around. I knew the other way would be no different. I was the only human out in the middle of an ice storm, and I couldn’t imagine how I was going to do this.
And then I heard a sound, a motor. A single headlight was shining in the distance; the sound of an engine coming from the darkness, getting louder and closer. And there it was. A man on a 4-wheeler, with a chain saw. I couldn’t believe it! He was bundled up in camouflage. I had no idea who he was or how he knew to come. I am certain he could not have had any idea how desperate I was to get to my duty station. I explained that I was on my way to run the EMS response from our Emergency Operations Center and that I had to get through. He didn’t say much – maybe not even a word. He just started the chainsaw and started cutting.
I don’t know how long it took; I only know that within a very short time, he cleared a path and I drove through without incident until I arrived at the EOC. We were all there for several days. A blur of sorts, like most disasters tend to be.
It was many weeks later when a few neighbors got together to “get to know one another” that I discovered who the camo covered angel was that cut me a path during the ice storm . It was a neighbor, of course. He was 3rd or 4th generation of a family that lived in this special part of our community for many years. I’m sure he thought nothing of helping someone that night. That’s what neighbors in the country tend to do. For me, the stranger in camouflage was sent by God to give me aid. I had the chance to say, “thank you” and we all sat around sharing our stories from the legendary ice storm, complete with power outages and lots of people helping one another.
The pandemic has changed the way I reflect on every “disaster” I ever worked as a Paramedic. For eleven months we have been navigating our way through this event. We have become nimble and innovative. Isolation has wearied those who are vulnerable or sick. Too much togetherness in some cases has challenged the best of relationships. And way too much time has passed since we’ve seen people we love.
Of all the things we’ve learned in these last many months, our shared need to “love and be loved” sure seems consistently important. Before this Valentine’s Day reaches end, or the ice and snow lead all of us into yet one more shared adventure…be assured: you are loved.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…
– I John 4:18
God, please help us to not be so afraid to love each other. Give us courageous spirits and humble hearts. We ask your blessings and provision for the many people who risk their lives to protect, help and care for everyone during this storm. Send them aid in whatever way is needed. Thank you for always showing up when we need you! Amen.
Do not be afraid; you are loved.
I Am Loved / Mack Brock