Proper Perspective

Hurricane Ike brought devastation to parts of Texas and cut a wide swath of disruption and inconvenience as it moved northward through America’s midsection. In a couple of days, Ike created great changes in the lives of millions – some short-term and some long-term.

Countless hours of national news coverage documented the damage in Texas, sometimes overshadowing election-year politics, the pennant race, and world events. In Texas, Ike was one for the record books. Not to be outdone, our local news media took center stage with their cameras and microphones eager to report (some would say to “shape”) the news of Ike’s curtain call in Ohio. Breaking news reports and cancellation of regular programming were regular fare for almost a week. The words “closed” and “two-hour delay” still echo in my ears.

Repair crews and emergency response teams have been working overtime and taking risks for the purpose of restoring power and rescuing people as quickly as possible. Like the brave firefighters who entered the burning World Trade Center, these folks deserve our admiration and respect.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” — Bible, John 15:13

I am amused every time I see a television reporter unnecessarily expose himself to danger while admonishing the rest of us to “stay home where it’s safe.” Apparently, a risky backdrop is a journalistic necessity. This dogged determination for “on-the-scene reporting” means we are frequently “treated” to stories with empty buildings in the background where something allegedly happened earlier in the day. One reporter even said something like “as you can see the lights are out and nobody is home, but earlier today …” You can decide for yourself if this was a Freudian slip.

After some cheap shots at our beloved news media, let me get back to a more important point — attitude. Focusing on Ohio, who was hurt by the storm? People who rely on electricity for special health and safety needs, people who were careless, people who were too curious for their own good, people without insurance, and people who were unprepared. However, the real victims were those that chose a bad attitude as their response to an unfortunate situation.

“Accept fate, and move on. Don’t yield to the seductive pull of self-pity. Acting like a victim threatens your future.” — Source Unknown

Every problem is a potential opportunity. I’m not talking about looting and predatory business practices. Consider a personal example. Despite our gallant efforts, we lost most of our perishable food. The opportunity? Clean out the refrigerator/freezer and restock with fresh groceries. No television, no big deal! We played cards and read by candlelight.

“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” — Albert Einstein

People choose their response to challenges. I’m happy to report that most people I came in contact with chose patience and helpfulness. The way our townsfolk coped and reached out to others was inspirational. Complaining was amazingly subdued. Instead of a “woe is me” attitude, the grumbling I heard was more like bragging. People exhibited a bit of proud defiance in their ability to persevere.

“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.” — Al Neuharth

Less than two hours away, there were different responses. Students at one university complained about attending class during the power outage, which led to a rowdy protest in front of the university president’s home where several arrests were made. Turning to another nearby university I learned that an agitated parent called and insisted her child be housed in a nice hotel at university expense. Apparently the university’s makeshift arrangements were not good enough. It gets worse. When the power company’s technicians finally arrived to work on the problem, they were harassed by angry students.

Homes and businesses in Texas were leveled and this is how some respond to the inconvenience of a power outage.

“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the nonpharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” — John W. Gardner

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” — Abraham Lincoln

Face it, challenges like Ike are part of life. While a world with never-ending, rapid, major disruptions would be unbearable, a life with no changes would be exceedingly boring. Learning to keep change in perspective and to deal with it in a positive manner is a characteristic of maturity. (Unfortunately, not everyone grows up.) With a mature attitude, change can be managed and even enjoyed.

For most of us in Ohio, the events from the week that began on September 14, 2008, which interrupted our routines, created memories that we will recall and eagerly retell over a cup of coffee and at family reunions for years to come. Where were you when the lights went out?

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright September 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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