I moved from the Midwest to Georgia in 1987. Not more than a week after I arrived it began to snow. You know, the kind of snow that we get here—just a few flurries, but enough that everyone runs to store and buys every gallon of milk and carton of eggs available? I had moved in with my girlfriend, now my wife of almost 25 years, and I remember her mother calling and pleading with me to pick her daughter up from work. I kept contending that I had just left four feet of snow and this was not snow. I knew how to drive on snow and this would not be a problem.
Fast-forward 27 years, to SNOWJAM 2014. Where were you in either of the snow storms we had this year? My friends from back in the Midwest laughed at the picture of Atlanta shut down by two inches of ice and asked why I was stuck – I grew up driving in this kind of weather. I was in Columbus for a few extra days with others who attended the Georgia Winter Institute. I think one of the incredible things that happens when people are snowed in or can't get home is that real community emerges. We know about the many wonderful stories of how people helped each other when they were stranded in their cars. For those of us in Columbus, we were warm in the hotel but we still managed to create some very wonderful community building opportunities. Throughout those two extra days, people played games, joined each other for lunch or dinner, had wine and conversation with people they did not know. It was really about the community that we all want to live in. Too bad it takes a storm to bring us together.
Why does it take a catastrophe to bring us together? Can you imagine opening your home to strangers when there isn't a storm? Yet, people throughout the area did just that – they sent word through Facebook that if you need a place to stay – my home is open. "I will feed you, keep you warm and when you can get to your car, you can leave. " Already, there have been stories of people brought together by the storm who have had reunions. It shows the very beautiful side of being human. It shows that relationships are what it is all about and the way we build those relationships are through our stories. Can you imagine all the stories and new relationships built out of those few days? We will be telling them for the next 20 years.
I think it is up to each of us to learn this from SNOWJAM 2014 and focus on how we build relationships with others. Take the time to listen to their story and share your own. Sit down in your favorite restaurant or bar and ask the person next to you how they spent those two days. Or just ask them to tell their story. I know it seems awkward, but once you try it you will have a new friend and be able to add to your own story.
In the years when you have grandchildren, you can sit them on your lap and say "Let me tell you about the great snow blizzard of 2014 . . ."
Executive Director, GCDD