After dinner, just as I was placing the last frozen meal back in the now functioning freezer and silently praying that the power would stay on this time, Dave said, "You know, Dad, in a strange way, I'm kind of sad the power came back on," then quickly he added, "Not that I would want it off again."
I knew what he meant. I thought of a conversation with a worker at the grocery store earlier that day. She, too, had played cards with her family. She didn't particularly like to read but discovered it wasn't so bad, and even found it gratifying. As much as she hoped her power would come back, she liked, even enjoyed, the time she had with her family.
Then, I recalled how so many people had opened their homes to relatives and friends who were still without power. Other people had brought meals to those who were without. People seemed to talk more to one another, and maybe even show they cared more, too.
The ice storm that hit Kentucky was not one to take lightly. The storm's power hit this state harder than any other. Ninety-three of Kentucky's counties and seventy-one cities were declared in states of emergency. "It's going to be a long haul for us," Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said.
Some are still without power. Going a few hours or even days may be something of an adventure; a week or more is devastating and costly. One of my fellow employees who was still without power said it seemed like all she did was boil the water.
Yet, there can be gain in the midst of the storm's loss. We can look back and take something with us from this disaster.
Breaking the power lines
Isn't it strange that we long for what we seem to dread: time alone with ourselves, our families and friends?
It may take hours for enough ice to accumulate on power lines before they are paralyzed. One may not notice the weight of ice on trees before they suddenly, snap and, as if in unison, ricochet like thunder rolling through the forest.
And so it is with one another. Over time we inadvertently create devices that distance ourselves from those we love the most. We don't realize what is happening. At some point, we feel disconnected. The power lines uniting us with others have been broken.
A love/hate relationship exists between us and our items of convenience. I love my cell phone for the way it helps me keep in touch with my parents and children, but I hate the fact that I am subject to whoever, now including telemarketers, happens to call me. In their power we lose something of our own independence. We miss the face-to-face interpersonal aspect of relationships that make those relationships real and meaningful. And suddenly, not having all these gadgets of convenience can make us realize what we have missed.
It doesn't happen overnight, or even in a year. But a time comes when the power in relationships dwindles and flickers until darkness overtakes them. And we are left alone in our own little world. It can be debilitating and tiring.
As Drew Barrymore says in the movie, He's Just Not That Into You, "I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work, so I called him at home and he emailed to my Blackberry, and so I texted to his cell and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected. It's exhausting."
Indeed, it is exhausting. So much of our efforts to save time and accelerate the communication process are more exhausting than helpful. We stress, and then hyperventilate when we do not facilitate relationships as soon as we think they should be facilitating.
We can't go back and most don't want to. But there is a way to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. The power doesn't have to go out for us to return to these things that make life with others meaningful and purposeful. We only have to take the time for the little things that bring us together and better ourselves.
Corralling a family and friends from the tyranny of modern technology may not be easy, but it is possible. It can be done with forethought and deliberation. It might take planning and agreement with one another, but time together is possible. And we can take time to read and reflect.
"I know," I told Dave, in response to his ambivalence about the electricity being back on. "How about us huddling together and watching the movie on the laptop, just because? And if the battery goes out, we've got power for a recharge!"
"Sounds good to me," he said.
And so we did thanks to the ice.
David B. Whitlock, Ph.D., is pastor of Lebanon Baptist Church. He also teaches in the School of Theology at Campbellsville University. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.