I laid my infant son down in his crib—a silent win for a father whose son has been struggling to sleep in his own bed for over a month now. Not even a couple minutes later, as I tip toe out of his room—all the power goes out in the house. [Insert explicit muttered response and facepalm] Walking down the staircase, heading for the basement to check the breaker box, something strange catches my eye out the window: the neighbor’s lights are off, too. Hmm. Each window I peer out, I am met with sheer darkness. Finally, I notice the lamps at the entrance of the church next door are out as well. The whole town has lost power. Oh dear. The last time this happened was on Easter morning; and we ended up having an hour-long warm worship with the lights out—only for the power (and A/C) to come back on as the last people were walking out afterwards. This situation was different, and for me scarier. With temperatures in the single digits and an old house as drafty as a holy sail, I know it will not be holding the little heat we have within it for long. Immediately, I begin covering my infant son with extra blankets—not wanting a cold, awake child. Next, I call the electricity provider to report the situation. The receptionist takes my name and address and thanks me for calling. With nothing else to do other than sit and wait, I grab our comforter, wrap myself up, and sit in a recliner in our son’s room. I can feel a breeze blowing across my face through the window next to me as if it wasn’t even shut. I’ve lived in the Midwest for over five years now and am fairly use to the cold; but I’ll be honest: Residing in an almost century-old house that has no insulation in any of its walls and windows in every room that function more for sources of light (though not tonight) than keeping the weather out, I’m growing concerned about how long this issue will take to resolve.
An hour goes by, and I call the electricity provider to check the progress of the situation. The receptionist tells me that when the crew gets together—WAIT, they’re not here or even on their way yet?—it will take them an hour and a half to get to our village, and then an additional one to four hours to fix the problem depending on its severity. I’m literally dumbfounded by this response. Hanging up, I continue to wait—now, in cold frustration. Another hour goes by, and my wife arrives home from a late night of work. During this time, I’ve let my frustration get the best of me—ranting on social media about the situation. With all of the heat in the house nearly gone, we decide to move our son to our bed (the one thing I tried to accomplish tonight, now undone) and all of us cover up with every blanket we have. A couple minutes before 3am the power, and the heater, finally comes back on.
The next day, on social media I find that my midnight rant has been met by something that sounds less than sympathy. At first, I was upset with some of the responses. Later in the day, as I thought again about the comments I began to hear them in a different manner. A few literally read: “Welcome to rural…” Having come from a fairly big town in South Texas and lived in other similar-sized towns while in the Midwest up until now, dealing with the issues of extreme cold coupled with residing in an old drafty house in a small village where when the power goes out it’s far more noticeable was truly a wake-up call for me. “We’re not in [Texas; Dubuque, Iowa; or Laramie, Wyoming] anymore, Toto.” Despite my gradual acclamation to this (still) new and different context, I had not been prepared for this part of it—waiting and wondering when the heat will come back on, hoping my family is not harmed in the process. To some, this thinking might sound extreme; but for me—having never dealt with such issues before—where else should I begin? The more I pondered on this, I was struck with deep humility: Here I am, worried and complaining about the cold inside the walls of a house; and yet, there are some who have no walls, perhaps only a single blanket—EVERY NIGHT--cold and not knowing if they will wake up the next morning. Talk about being doused with an icy-cold bucket of humility that knocks the wind (and hopefully washes the ignorance and pride) out of you. Needless to say, my family and I survived the concern and discomfort; and from this menial experience, I was met with a lesson learned—a cold wake-up call to our new context. This is the place where God has sent us to serve; and cold weather, a drafty parsonage, and the unpredictability of village power are a few aspects I will have to learn to accept and appreciate as norms here in Mead, Nebraska.
Lesson in Contextuality: 1 Andrew: 0