Cleaning Up the Mess

A week ago, when the big blizzard was just getting started, it was easy to write about it with humor. This week, not so much.

Oh, there’s no problem finding the lighter side based on just our own experience. We were incredibly fortunate. Our power was only out for one morning, plus two other short intervals. We didn’t have any trees fall on our house, damage our cars, or block our driveway. We didn’t have any medical emergencies or food shortages. We didn’t even run out of library books.

Basically, for us the storm was like a weekend retreat at an isolated discount spa. It featured nice towels, reasonably hot water, remarkably average food, and clean sheets if you wanted to change them yourself. Its most noteworthy offering was its unique exercise program. Snow shovels were provided by the management; guest were required to furnish their own snowpants and boots.

For a great many people, though, this storm was nothing to laugh about. There’s been enough said and written about its impact that I don’t need to add any more. The power outages, the broken trees, the damaged buildings, and especially the heartbreaking loss that puts everything else into perspective—the financial and emotional disaster of the thousands of dead cattle and sheep.

Of course, there are always a few people looking for someone to blame, like the complainers who seem to think the snowplows should hit their streets as soon as the first snowflakes do. Or the ones who don’t seem to grasp that rebuilding power lines takes time, especially when the work is complicated by deep snowdrifts, mud, and downed trees.

Many, many more, however, cope without drama. They dig themselves out and put themselves out to help their neighbors,. Like the volunteers with snowmobiles taking oxygen and other supplies to stranded people with medical needs. The unsung heroes with tractors plowing out their neighborhoods. Or the crews out working long, long hours and days to clear roads and restore power.

A columnist for the Rapid City Journal, Michael Sanborn, wrote a piece after the blizzard praising the way people came together to help each other. I agreed with most of what he said. Except this: “The western South Dakota community has shown our resilience. Had this happened in New York or Washington, it would still be the nation’s top story, because they aren’t as tough as we are.”

What nonsense. I somehow doubt he would say that in person to those who lost homes, businesses—and loved ones—in superstorm Sandy. When it comes to coping with disasters, there’s no difference between South Dakota, Haiti, Oklahoma, New York City, or anywhere else. Ultimately, we’re all part of the same community. The support and help we give each other is what helps make us so tough and resilient.

That’s why we keep shaking our heads and getting back up when Mother Nature—who can be a harsh and unforgiving old crone—has whacked us again. That’s why, when the storm is over, so many people matter-of-factly set about cleaning up the mess.  And why so many of them say, and mean it, “It could have been worse.”

Categories: Living Consciously | Tags: | 4 Comments

Post navigation

4 thoughts on “Cleaning Up the Mess

  1. Ginny Buhr

    I am glad you are all ok. The bigger picture is well stated. I have been proud of “Boston Strong!” after the marathon bombings but I often think that it is just human nature to rise to what is needed in the moment. Many other cities would — and do — respond similarly.

  2. Frank and Ginny

    We must whole heartedly agree with your assessment of the willingness of people in other areas besides our fair state to help others when disaster strikes. We read about heroic actions when those occur after tornadoes strike in other states. Thanks again for your news and views. Frank and Ginny

  3. Michael Sanborn, probably hasn’t lived through a winter in New York. I live in Central New York where we can and do get storms every winter. We get at least one or more blizzards every winter. Not counting major snow storms and ice storms. Tell Mr. Sanborn we can hold our own. But better than that when other areas of our country has a major emergency we always respond to the Red Cross, Church drives, and other fund raisers to give aid. I can’t even count the many times my friends in the power companies volunteer to go out of state to help out. I can recall when a major tornado struck in the mid west how truck after truck loaded with needed supplies went to the victims. The trucks, drivers and all the goods they carried were paid for by donations.

    I have rattled on way too much. I just cannot stand playing one region of the country against the other. No one section is better than the other. We are all in the same boat and have to row as one or we get no where.

  4. Kathleen

    Thanks for all the comments. I absolutely agree that it’s part of human nature to rise to the occasion, no matter where you are. And I liked the reminder that we’re all in the same boat and have to row together.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: