It snowed last night. The snow reminded of the kindness of people responding to other’s needs.
Some years ago there was a massive ice storm in the mountains of North Carolina. The temperatures hovered near zero for days making the clean-up and restoration of power to the thousands of homes in the county nearly impossible. The workers were stretched beyond human strength working double shifts in the brutal cold. There were not enough people to do the job. Because of the ice and the blinding snow storm that followed, few people could get out even to get food. People were tired, cold and some were hungry. Worried about my mother whose only source of heat was a small gas fireplace, we had undertaken the 17 hour journey from our rural community to hers, a journey of three airplane flights, two on tiny planes, and a 2 1/2 hour drive into the mountains.
With the plane journey completed we undertook the drive. Departing the rental car lot at midnight, we used great care to proceed on the snow covered roads. It was impossible to see where the road was and at that late hour there were no tracks to follow. As I headed toward home, I stretched my memory to recall the twists and turns of the road as it headed into the mountains. The weather along the deserted road was deteriorating. I wondered if we could get up the mountain or find ourselves stranded in this desolate landscape. Faint tracks appeared on the road. Who might be ahead of us? Who else would drive in this foul weather headed to a county that was almost completely blacked out? Who else would travel into an area whose roads were besieged by thousands of tree limbs so burned with ice that they fell to the ground?
I cautiously continued driving in the daunting weather wondering if we could make it to my aging mother’s house. Should we here stop? Should we wait until the worst of the storm passed? There were only a few houses and they were far from the road, their residents hunkered down to weather yet another brutal winter storm. Driving on an uncertain road to an unknown house seemed a poorer alternative to solider on up the mountain. The road continued to narrow as it wound its way into the heart of the mountains. I knew the roads well enough to know if we slipped the drop would be to eternity.
I shifted the rental car I did not know into its lowest gear and continued to creep up the mountain. The snow was falling so thick and heavy that I lost the faint tracks I had been following. I was on my own in the deep and death-laden storm.
With fear as my companion I rounded a curve and saw lights. I struggled to think of what enterprise could be the source of the lights here in the dark. As I drew closer I discerned that the lights were headlights moving just ahead of me. I watched ,mesmerized, by the serpentine line of lights curving its way through the difficult terrain. I rounded a curve and found the source of the light. Ahead was a brigade of utility trucks headed up the mountain to lend their aid to the beleaguered utility workers.
The trucks, some with cherry pickers, some with equipment to manage heavy lines and some with supplies lumbered up the mountain as if they were synchronized swimmers. I joined the brigade synchronizing our vehicle with theirs. Even in the foul weather I could tell the trucks were from multiple places. There were trucks from South Carolina and Florida, from the far side of North Carolina, and from Virginia. They had come in to help free the people locked in the frozen grasp of an aggressive ice storm upon whose heels fell this blizzard.
I was dumbfounded that the utility companies would do this. They sent their own personnel and equipment the aid of others. They massed together for the greater good.
I will never forget driving in the stark white of that night. I will never forget my amazement at those who came to help. Driving in the brigade was like waltzing to the most beautiful music that exists, the music of compassion extended from one stranger to another.