We lost our power last week. Notice I didn’t say we lost “electricity.” Power, for a variety of reasons, is more telling.
Time spent without electricity can be difficult. But it can also be a teachable moment. Ours went out last Friday night, when the DC-area was hit with a storm. A few interesting things happened Saturday morning. First, we started talking to our neighbors (you know, the people we normally just wave to as we’re ducking in our door with bags full of groceries?) They were outside in the cool(er) air, doing work like picking up tree branches left over from the storm. Because they were already outside, it was easy to talk to them. All of a sudden, despite the hardship, we were all more friendly and talkative and neighborly.
We had nothing else to do — no TV to watch, at least — and we now had something in common to talk about and a shared community to watch out for and clean up. I’ve seen this with snowstorms, too. (I have neighbors that I only know because of natural disasters.) Just add wind or a foot of snow, and all of a sudden, Alexandria, Virginia turns into Mayberry.
With a pug and a baby, we eventually had to retreat to air conditioning. So we headed to West Virginia (the irony that West Virginia had power is not lost on me) to stay with some family (something else we would never have done unless forced.) This turned out to be terrific fun. Who would have thought that getting away from the city and spending time with family could be so relaxing?
Interestingly, this reminds me of an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.” It often imparted lessons, and one of those lessons was to enjoy the simple things of life — to not let busyness interfere. That was the message of “The Sermon for Today,” where a preacher advises the congregation (including Andy and Barney and the Taylor Family) to just “Relax, slow down, take it easy. What’s your hurry?”
In an effort to follow this advice, the entire town of Mayberry gets caught up in nostalgia for the days when the town used to put on band concerts (“that was relaxing, wasn’t it?”).
This ultimately leads them to get the band back together, begin rehearsals, repair band uniforms, construct bandstands, etc. — it’s quite exhausting and ironic. (And all that hard workaccomplishes the exact opposite of what the preacher advised)
The lesson, of course, is that if we aren’t careful, we get caught up in doing activities, and forget to pay attention to what (and who) really matters.
So on this July 4, think about freedom and independence. Spend time with your friends and family. Put down the iPhone. “Relax, slow down, take it easy. What’s your hurry?”
Note: Tuesday, I wrote a tribute to Griffith, which shared some values from the show which I believe to be “conservative.” But I like how the Atlantic’s David A. Graham put it even better: “What it was, was America.”