Thirty inches…and counting. That was the report last night from Washington, D.C. The amount of snow piling up. Which on one hand could result in many snowmen [doesn’t anyone create a snowwoman?]. That was important for those in the area. Even more personally. That was important because my son, Andrew, and his family, now living in Virginia were in the middle of the swirl, a world that was hampered by the weather.
Brought back memories for I’ve been there. [Isn’t that the case, ANY incident triggers our own space and how it connects?] Was January of 1967 [yep, that long ago.] Hadn’t been in ministry a year but knew it was the right place to be professionally. Also knew I wasn’t and really never planned to be a rich man. At least “rich” when it came to the dollar sign. Wealth comes in so many other ways…like currently having the best editor in the world as I now slog through the next novel. Like having the dearest of friends who somehow understand me—or at least don’t rant and rage about the ways in which what I have written them creates unease…which can be related to dis-ease and distance. In a shout-out-way, Al Day’s the best editor I know. The best.
Back to the Super Storm of ’67 story.
Not being rich didn’t mean not earning money. Which was why I agreed to do a funeral for a mortuary friend. In those days $25 was, say, more than $100 today. Problem was the storm buried my car, literally, parked as a lump of snow on Fullerton Avenue. I explained I would do the funeral but the mortuary had to be my transportation.
I stood there, on the corner of Fullerton and Southport [at the age of 26 I was able to slog my way that ½ mile.] The wind didn’t chill the air; it froze it. Am sure my face didn’t remain snow white…probably evidence I needed sun-burn-lotion. Waited for the hearse…to pick me up and not carry me off. The distinction is important.
Ah, the hearse arrived, stopped at the signal light, which was red. Never occurred to me, as I stood there with my pulpit robe over my arm that the hearse didn’t come to the curb. Maybe the driver was afraid he couldn’t keep going.
Walked to the hearse, opened the passenger door and jumped in.
The driver was obviously startled. Looked at me and in his best Chicago dialect, “Who in the hell are you?”
Was the wrong hearse.
But, this morning more than the wrong hearse story is triggered. What is also triggered is my dear friend, Matthew Krane. You know him as my Colorado fly-fishing Rabbi Guide. But more comes to me this morning. Has to do with snow and ice. Has to do that he’s also on the Ski Patrol at the Breckenridge Ski Area. Has been for more than 20 years.
He wrote me this week about his experiences. Could paraphrase, but his words move from “what?” to “compelling.” From the Rabbi Guide:
“In my world (winter), because our workload is acute much of the time: explosives in howling weather and low visibility, trauma and medical emergencies (cardiac death 10 days ago up high on the mt.), helicopter landings, the odd femur/humerus fracture/closed head injury, each situation is dynamic, stressful, and always de-briefed later. In the last two years, we’ve focused on being a ‘feedback-oriented” organization, with a huge emphasis on positive feedback being much more productive interpersonally and ultimately much more instructional. It’s all in the approach.”
I’ve read this again and again. And am inspired. Why? Because of the lesson in living my Rabbi Guide brings. He and his team face what in good terms is daunting…and in bad terms is terminal. Not an in-between place to be. Yet, it’s all about attitude, it really is.
So, on this Saturday morning where people are not sure the snow can be cleared, when perhaps Rabbi Guide is clearing avalanche trouble with explosives, how and where are you? Are you a complaint-machine? That’s what most of us offer in a first-response-mode. Or? Is our approach, no matter what’s set before us…and maybe upon us…can we be positive and ask, “What can I learn from this that benefits me and those around me?”
Even if you or I get in the wrong hearse.