December 27, 2013 by T. Gregory Argall
Last Friday I signed off with “…Try to be nice to each other.”
Saturday night, as you are probably aware, an ice storm hit parts of southern Ontario, having a serious impact on Toronto and surrounding cities and towns. A thick, heavy layer of ice covered everything. Tree branches snapped under the weight of the ice that engulfed them.
A lot of tree branches.
Some branches fell harmlessly to the ground. Some of them landed on houses and sheds, some landed on cars. A lot of them landed on power lines, severing the electrical supply to homes and businesses over a huge area. Hundreds of thousands of people were without power, without heat for several days.
Facebook quickly filled with photos of the what the ice storm had left behind; amazing, stunning beauty that happened to be devastatingly destructive.
My brother Dave’s home was one of the ones affected. The street he lives on was covered with fallen branches everywhere, littering the road and driveways in dark houses with no power.
Dave owns a restaurant in an industrial area. The power lines there are all buried so there was still electricity. Sunday morning Dave went to the restaurant and made what is best described as a vat of soup. He took the soup home and delivered about ten large pots of soup around his neighbourhood. Then he helped neighbours shifting frozen tree branches off of their cars and driveways and roofs.
Unrelated to the ice storm, Dave’s wife Iwona had made a cake for her friend Jane. At some point after the storm Dave answered a knock at the door and met a man who said, “Hi, I’m Jane’s husband. My wife works with your wife. I have a spare generator and I thought maybe you could use it.” After some friendly conversation, Dave gave this fellow the cake that Iwona had made for Jane so he could take it home to her. He hadn’t been expecting a cake, but Dave hadn’t been expecting a generator, so they both came out ahead. Dave tried to at least pay him for the five gallons of gas in the generator but he refused to take the money.
Soon after Iwona came into the room and asked Dave who was at the door. Dave told her that Jane’s husband had dropped off a generator and Dave had given him the cake. Iwona looked out the window in time to see the fellow leaving. She said, “That’s not Jane’s husband.”
Wrong Jane. Wrong Jane’s husband.
This Jane worked with the woman who lived next door. Dave tried to deliver the generator to its intended location, but the couple next door were out and they already had a generator. In due time, Wrong Jane’s husband came knocking on the door again, attempting to return the cake. He refused to take the generator back and so was told to keep the cake.
Right Jane will get a replacement cake eventually.
When the ice storm struck, the cynic in me braced for stories of selfishness and random looting, as homes and businesses were left dark and unprotected. But the cynic in me was pleasantly disappointed, as stories surfaced instead of neighbourly acts of kindness and strangers helping strangers. My brother’s story was not unique. (Well, the whole multiple Jane aspect of the story was probably unique, but the rest of, the happy feel-good-about-people part of it, that wasn’t unique at all.) Neighbourhoods and communities came together and became stronger through the crisis. As the personal impact of the storm became more apparent, the pretty pictures on Facebook were replaced with open invitations… “We have power. If you don’t, come visit us.” Homes and guestrooms were opened to friends and neighbours who needed a place to stay. People helped people just for the sake of helping people. It was inspiring.
As I mentioned at the top of the page, I signed off last week with “…Try to be nice to each other,” and at the first opportunity, people were nice to each other.
I kind of feel obligated to make that my regular sign off, now.
I’m fine with that.
See you next week. Try to be nice to each other.