My Outlook

Not dark for very long

With about seven minutes to go before an on-line meeting I was hosting was set to begin, the power suddenly went out. I had my resources set out in front of me for easy reference, and I had just clicked on the link to prepare for others to log in when my screen went black and the lights went out. This meeting had already been postponed from a prior date and now the lack of power was putting this one in jeopardy.

            Just as I was trying to put another plan in place, the power returned. It had been only a few minutes but as I began to re-start everything, I was fully aware that others in the meeting were having to wait. It seemed as if every moment stretched out interminably and my impatience was telling.

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            A few years ago I had the opportunity to be part of an outreach event in a migrant work camp in Mexico. We arrived in the afternoon to interact with the children and adults and prepare for a movie that was to be shown that night. As the sun began to set we looked for a place to sit on the ground amongst the large number of people who had come out to see it. Before long I was struck by how dark it had become. There were no outdoor lights. No indoor lights. The projection of the movie against a big white screen provided the only illumination. There was no electricity in the camp. When the sun set, so did their only light.

            I was shaken by the written account of a man who lived with his family in an overcrowded refugee camp for many years. He said the days were difficult, but the nights were terrifying. As darkness descended he could hear the screams of people who were the latest victims of violent crimes. The darkness exposed their complete vulnerability while providing a protective cover to those who perpetrated heinous acts.

            Things I have to worry about in the dark are vastly different from the concerns of many, many others. To have an outage you first have to have power. To worry about a fridge full of food spoiling, you first have to have that fridge full of food. To worry about what might happen to our electronics and appliances we first have to own electronics and appliances.

            We have all experienced any number of power outages--some more notable than others perhaps because of their duration or events it might have interrupted. But whether it has been in a city, town, campus, campground or at work, I am fortunate to be able to say I never felt unsafe or unprotected in any of those situations. Inconvenienced, perhaps. Annoyed? Admittedly, far too often. But never did I feel my life or safety were at risk simply because I found myself in the dark.

            Each and every time the power was restored I happily and easily slid back into the routine of the day. Too easily; with little thought for those who had worked at its restoration. Without regard for those who can't wait in anticipation for power to be restored because they have no access to it in the first place.

            There are times when events will take place putting us in a position to reevaluate or reorder our priorities. We are forced to take stock of what is important--or perhaps it would be better to say we are given an opportunity to determine what truly matters. But being unable to change the situation, we can often work to better manage our response to it. Though it might be very difficult to go through at the time, some amazing things can come out of the challenge. Appreciation. Perspective. Awareness. Gratitude. But we might have to adjust our way of looking to be able to see it.

            Maybe it can start with recognizing that loss of power, or anything else we might have to do without, is not about what is lost in the short term but rather that it is there at all. Think of what our response could be if we remembered that what is considered essential for us, is a luxury beyond anything others could begin to imagine. That's my outlook.

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