The weather outside is frightful.
Wicked wind penetrates any gap in our defenses and tries to freeze any exposed bit of skin, and recent freezing rain has turned walking from the house to the car into a lottery. I’m never sure which trip will be the one on which I slip and break my neck.
Hacking my car out of a block of ice has become an unpleasant daily ritual.
On the nastiest days, I have often decided I could wait until the temperature rises to freezing to stop at the grocery store, because even that small chore seems daunting when the wind is howling down from the arctic.
There are some dedicated people, however, who go about their business, day or night, no matter what the conditions.
Recently, I happened to be up at midnight for a hike down the hall to the latrine. I had been thinking evil thoughts about the inconvenience of having to leave my warm bed and venture through the cold house.
Then, I heard a siren announcing the arrival of first responders from the local fire department at an address in my neighborhood.
As I peered, shivering, out my window, I watched these dauntless public servants emerge from their vehicle and scurry, huddled against the wind, to the aid of someone in need. I suddenly felt better about my own situation.
Earlier in the week, firefighters from several local departments were called out at 3:30 a.m. to battle a house fire.
Somehow, my worries about walking across icy parking lots seemed insignificant compared to the thought of those intrepid workers braving sub-zero temperatures and double-digit windchills to help a neighbor.
It’s difficult for those of us who have not experienced it to imagine what it is like to be dragged out in the middle of the night and have to cope with water freezing on contact, turning the scene into a treacherous, icy hell.
Most of us have a choice when it comes to venturing out in inclement weather, but there are countless first responders, firefighters, medical personnel, law enforcement officers, power company employees, and others who go out at any time of the day or night, under every kind of condition, to protect their communities.
Too often, these people are subjected to an unreasonable level of scrutiny and are unjustly criticized.
They do difficult jobs under stressful and challenging conditions.
Not only do some people fail to give them the credit they deserve but they often make their jobs harder.
I recently saw an example of something I have seen countless times before.
I was traveling westbound on a divided highway. Far ahead, I saw an ambulance heading eastbound with its siren activated and lights flashing.
Traffic in front of it continued, oblivious. Very few drivers appeared to notice the ambulance, much less pull over to let it pass.
It’s frightening how many drivers seem to have no idea what’s going on around them when they are behind the wheel.
The weather outside is still frightful, and it seems likely I will continue to complain about it, but I will also be thankful that I generally have a choice about when I go outdoors.
I’ll also be thankful for the dedicated men and women who go out day and night in all weather to make life better for the rest of us.