(To go to the beginning of this story, please click here.)
I and two of my teens went to the local Walmart that night, ironically driving by Amish buggies who knew how to live with “no electricity” like a BOSS.
We picked up fun foods and non-perishable snacks and even some candy for the younger ones “to make things fun”… afterall, we didn’t know when (or if) the power would return, since the electric company’s “word” didn’t seem consistent; so we needed to be prepared. I mean, the power company had this much control, so what was to stop them from saying “you’ll have power back in two weeks” or “two months” or “not our problem, scum, so NEVERRRRRR!!!!”
So we were going to plan a new kind of adventure…. a “let’s not let this get to us, and let’s see if we can fun with this, and survive” plan. Yes, I knew how little there was in the bank account. So I chose flashlights and batteries carefully…. just what we needed…. and we returned home to our home chuckling at how haunted the place looked. Even the Amish use battery and solar power and gas lamps…. our house looked like it had been sitting there vacant for all 150 years…. except for those cute little dim solar lights in our front garden, there wasn’t a hint of light, and those little lights seemed so drowned out by the surrounding darkness that they seemed out of place, mocking us, almost.
And so we brought in the flashlights and the battery lanterns and basically fought off darkness as best we could. People went to unflushable toilets carrying around battery lanterns, looking like Weird Al’s “Amish Paradise,” complete with the “yeauuuugghhh” at the end of that song.
What stood out most to me was how QUIET everything was. There were no fans, no televisions, some kids whining “but no internet?!” like that was a bigger concern than water. We were kind of… forced to work together, to coordinate. One person needed to pass one lantern to another, and someone was in charge of snacks, and suddenly there was teamwork that had a hint of adventure to it.
The kids, especially the little ones, LOVED the flashlights. I love how children trust their parents and life in general, knowing they will cared for. There wasn’t even a hint of “but what about my shower?!” even from the 7 and 8 year old girls; and in fact, they didn’t care. That was just something I mainly nagged them about.
We were now listening to each other, instead of everyone staring down at his or her personal screen. And even “card games in the dark” happened, as well as some excited boys saying “Hey! Let’s play ‘ghost in the graveyard!'” (That’s a game involving a bunch of kids with flashlights and one kid without one, and something about finding each other… they learned it at the Byzantine Boys Camp this summer.)
Speaking of the Boys Camp, we asked our wonderful Deacon friend about camping out at the Shrine (where the Boys Camp had taken place), and he generously said that of course we could camp there if need be, and we could even put whatever food we needed to rescue from our freezers there temporarily, and even get a hot shower for everyone at the camping area…. when asked what we could pay, he said not to worry about that right now, and his soothing voice, like my pastor’s voice which had also come through that day, gave me the hope that all would be well, somehow.
Our kind neighbors who were out of town texted that we could use gasoline if we needed for generators (only, our generators were in disrepair), or anything else once they returned; and between them, the kind donors, and our church, we saw that we were being cared for in the moment. So I focused on that…. live in the moment…
As my pastor said to me once, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch; yard by yard, life is hard.”
That night as the children slept, I thought of the millions of people throughout the world who are not Amish and who don’t have power or water. I thought of how this is a normal reality for more people on this planet than we care to admit. I felt a solidarity with them, as nice cars zoomed by on the nearby highway…. I felt one with the poor, even though my poverty wasn’t nearly as bad as those where no one in the village or town or city has good water or shelter. I felt an awareness of the “power” of the ultra-wealthy, with sky rises and mansions and fine foods and private jets who are CEOs of companies like this one, and the poor (and everyone in between) who depend on them.
I thought about the 100 people that same day in the wider surrounding area who were also shut off for whatever reason. One customer service person told me that it was normal, and that some had in the tens of thousands of dollars that they owed just from trying to stay warm, and perhaps they had lost their job or had outrageous medical bills. There were debts they simply couldn’t pay, and let me tell you, the debts were not from living in a lap of luxury or way too many “deadbeats.” To be honest, I’m wondering where all these “deadbeats” supposedly are, as I haven’t met any out of all the people I’ve known, and I’ve met a lot of people. It was poverty on top of poverty; and I thought, wouldn’t it be neat if just one of the billionaires just declared a “jubilee” and let the people start over again? The government had even had to step in and not allow them to shut off power in the dead of winter. So that at least most people could hopefully not wind up dead because of their dependence on electricity and their insufficient funds to pay for it.
This is a reality. In America. And for many more people than I realized.
In my entire life, I had never been shut off for “non-payment,” even through financial struggles. And now here I was…. surrendering with no choice.
So we were going to have as much fun as possible while we waited…
(…to be continued…)