Every four years, it seems, we must have our patience tested, our resolve and fortitude put on the line, our faith in ourselves and each other pushed to the limit.
No, not the presidential elections. Mother Nature's quadrennial reminders – do her showy hints have to be so brutal? – of just who is in charge here.
In 2008, it was an ice storm during one of the coldest weeks of the year that threatened to ruin Christmas by knocking out power to 124,000 people, including 58,000 in Fort Wayne, for several days.
And in 2012, it was a thunderstorm during the hottest week of the year, featuring 90-mph-plus straight-line winds that threatened to ruin the Fourth of July by leaving millions without power from Indiana to New Jersey.
We never seem to learn – and so we must periodically be reminded – that everything we accomplish as a civilization depends on a fairly narrow range of “normal” and “moderate” weather. When extremes crowd in on short notice, we temporarily suspend the small and ongoing refinements of the good life and are reduced to merely coping.
We are suddenly confronted with the “preparations” we always say we are going to make for emergencies but never do. Four years ago, there was a run on propane-powered portable heaters, and people discovered they couldn't have too many pairs of gloves. This year, we're desperate for portable generators – if only we'd already had them hooked up! – and people discovered you can never have too much ice when the food in the fridge starts getting old and hot.
But we also discover that disasters bring out the best in us and that we are, after all, pretty good neighbors for each other. So many people over the last few days have offered unsolicited help with no expectation of reward – everything from the simple act of checking on elderly neighbors to the above-and-beyond act of volunteering a chain saw to cut down someone's fallen tree. City Councilman Mitch Harper sent out an email Sunday saying he had never been prouder to be a citizen of Fort Wayne: “Neighbors from the north side to the south side lent one another a hand this weekend …We're a city of hard workers and friendly neighbors.” Amen.
But let's not wallow in self-congratulations. There are trees to move, refrigerators to restock, normal lives waiting for our return. Heaven knows we have to put this behind us and husband our strength for the next time Mother Nature decides to test us. Haven't had us a real good flood here in the longest time. How else do you think the drought is going to end?