When a city of powerful people loses power, and is basically powerless to do anything about it, it’s not pretty.
If a natural mega-disaster ever hits the greater Washington DC area, it will not be the event itself that destroys the city. It will be the lack of kindness, compassion and basic care for one another that does it.
The derecho winds that hit last weekend showed the selfishness of most of us. Hurricane-force winds struck without warning, causing major damage. Our Maryland county was hit the hardest. Hundreds of intersections without stoplights should have been treated as 4-way stops. Some I am sure were, but I arrived at many to see 4 or 5 cars going after the one in front of them, too busy or important or just plain selfish to wait their turn. I saw this day after day.
Grocery stores, ones that were open, were raided for ice and perishables, no one bothering to leave anything for those coming behind them. Same with fuel, as gas stations dredged up memories of the 70’s, handmade signs saying “out of gas” displayed by the street.
Worst of all, I saw it in my own house. The first night without power, my kids argued over who “deserved” the couch in the basement. The fight was so intense they all forgot about the queen-sized bed we had tucked in an alcove of the huge room for a friend of Emma’s who had lived with us for a couple months last year! (Of course no one thought Mom or Dad should have it.)
By the second day without electricity and temperatures close to 100˚ I was tired of it. I constantly reminded myself I had lived with higher temperatures for two weeks in Indonesia—not to mention there are people actually live there all the time. I thought about those who have no food. If people go without clean water, surely I can live without power for a couple days, right?
My reminders didn’t help much.
And since we lost power 36 hours after the storm was over, the knowledge that the power company likely took us offline to fix other areas, while I saw area after area go online while we remained powerless, didn’t help. I was not feeling charitable. I was feeling selfish.
The survival instinct is formidable. It is dominant. But it can be overcome. If we as a people are to survive, or to even have any dignity or worth at all, sometimes we have to put the survival—and comfort—of others ahead of the survival and comfort of self.