Monday, November 26, 2012

UNDERSTANDING, UNDERSTOOD



By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com
columnrule.blogspot.com

We all walk, run, race, saunter and mope our individual ways through life, journeys that for most are never just straightaway but with twists and turns, detours, cul de sacs, dead ends and, if we are fortunate, the rare casual lane. This is about that last byway, which I have tarried on just a precious few times.

If you have had a longish life, as I am into, with a fine family, successful career and a feeling that you were given an opportunity to make a very slight but real difference to the good and that you have tried to do that, you cannot have complaint. And I do not. Even my falls and flaws have somehow been positive. I am damn lucky.

Yet if I went to the finish line without having been on the casual lane, a door to what might be next might not have opened in preview. Not sure if I am headed to that -- the jury is still out -- but I have gotten a glimpse of things fantastic.

Each of us has a mojo, a core essence, the fuel that is in our engine, our raison d’etre. Mine is the quiet. It is where I drink my life water. Nothing creative, no goosebumps, no inner happiness, no true understanding comes without being there, however short that may be, however infrequent. The quiet comes when it does, and it is obvious that my god of the woods and all that is simple and decent offers it.

Once, so long ago now, in a time when the planets seemed to bring confusion and I was stalled against moving forward on every level, I found respite without looking for it on a casual lane where the goosebumps came in conversation about nothing but about everything. I was not there long, and the next road had many twists and turns, too, then the long straightaway came. It has been the highway of job (career), raising family, losing friends and family, gaining friends and family, of much change, retirement, new opportunities,

Now I am back on a casual lane from time to time, again enjoying conversation that brings insight and comfort, a general purring for the synchronization is right as it was so long ago. I refill my quiet there, bouncing the ordinary off a co-conversationalist, as once before. Different time, different people, but understanding, understood.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.

Monday, November 19, 2012

SHOWING GOOD IN A STORM



By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com

I went to Louisiana, Connecticut, Georgia and all the way to Texas during Hurricane Sandy’s recent rude visit to the Northeast, and I barely left home. It wasn’t time travel that did the trick but the goodness of humanity. And a bit of financial incentive.

Utility crews from as far away as the Lone Star State were on hand in my area north of New York City to restore service in the electrical and communication devastation. These people are the best. The ones I saw and met were as neighborly as if I sat daily on a front porch in their communities. They smiled though most were on 12-hour or more shifts handling dangerous repair and unaccustomed to the quicker ways of the north.

Ways that include heavy traffic, impatience, sometime rudeness and attitude. But I also saw - I am sure you did as well - little of that behavior on area roads while these called-in utility workers did their job. Some people brought them coffee and food, and one fellow walking by a lineman from Texas patted his back, not saying a word where none was needed. The Texan showed fatigue, but the pat, the silent thank you, gave him a burst of new energy.

One morning at 1 a.m., in blowing wind, a Louisiana crew worked by whatever light they could provide to temporarily connect main feeder lines so that 1,000 people without electricity for eight days could see light and have that all important heat in their homes. A week later the same crew returned and made permanent their work.

In such disasters as Sandy, many of us slow down a bit. We are forced to do without power and thus have time on our hands. We can’t just reconnect to the Internet and check email. We walk to the local library and sit with strangers, some of whom might could live just five houses away in suburbia, and huddle in warmth, using computers, reading the paper. We return home to cook simple meals with natural gas. We sit by candlelight. We go to sleep early, covered by quilts in houses below 50 degrees, just like our great-grandparents did.

And we see, perhaps for the first time in a long while, how little we need to keep going. And how awesome it is to observe a kind gesture, such as the neighbor who ran an extension cord from his generator to the people next door; the convenience store owner who gave out free coffee; the police officer who reported to work without asking for overtime; the volunteer firefighters, first aiders, auxiliary police and others who gave to the point of exhaustion. 

And the out-of-area utility workers who worked with their local Orange and Rockland, Con Edison, Verizon, Optimum and other utility  brothers to get the job done.  While there will be argument and investigation about utility preparedness and response, as there must be if only to be better prepared for the next storm in the “new normal,” none of those words will delete the two we use best to describe those professionals and others who helped in the disaster: good people. 

Does humanity need any more than that? 

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



Monday, November 12, 2012

THUMBS UP FOR HUMANITY



By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com

In all the disruption, sadness and worry that hit the Northeast as Hurricane Sandy walloped us, much of the human spectrum was once again revealed. There were heroes who died saving family; 90 year olds without heat, light and phone who said World War II rationing and shortages were worse; looters and the greedy who will meet their karma; volunteers who gave without complaint; linemen and government workers who went above and beyond; and that part of government and business that showed great weakness in preparation and follow-through.

In the next few months, reports will be compiled, as officialdom is wont to do; few will be read for the next time such a terrible storm comes. By the old calendar, that is abut 100 years away; by the new, perhaps in two seasons. Instead, it will fall to the ordinary person to be better prepared -- home generators, fuel stockpiled, more grit and determination, and a bigger wallet to pay for home repairs and the inevitable increase in insurance payments and, of course, to fund all that utility rebuilding. Somehow, stockholders usually fare better in a storm than the rest of us.

But that’s life, and I’ll side with the best of the human condition rather than the big guns who don’t always shoot straight or get their ammunition wet when they are supposed to be protecting us. The best are those selfless volunteers, whether firefighters and other first responders, or the neighbor who ran an extension cord from his generator to another, or who brought food to a cold shut-in. I’ll applaud the paid official or officer who gave without thought to fatigue or overtime; the churchman who made the needy citizenry his true sanctuary; the gasoline delivery man who phoned a radio station and gave the public a list of where he had just dropped off fuel; the children who had such fun not watching TV but playing by candlelight.

Yes, disaster struck, and for some the mourning will not soon leave, sadness and loss will be almost forever. Yet for many, there is reaffirmation in the good of humanity. We all need sustenance to survive, but it isn’t just food. This hurricane reminded us.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.