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SideLines: We’re all in this together

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 9:00 a.m. CDT

According to national polls, President Obama and the U.S. Congress are facing historical lows in popularity.

I think I have an idea that may help them, as well as the rest of us. I think they should pass a law banning the bitter cold weather we’ve had lately. Not to be unreasonable; we can keep enough snow so those who enjoy it and those who make money from it can go on snowmobiling, skiing, sledding or whatever. The law will just get rid of these ridiculously cold temperatures we’re all tired of.

Now, I know this is silly, but since this is an election year, candidates will be promising us a lot of outrageous things they have absolutely no chance of accomplishing, so why not promise something that matters?

When I was younger, the cold never really bothered me. I think it was all that Norwegian blood in my veins. As I get older, the more practical English, Irish and Dutch side of me is apparently taking over, and I just can’t seem to get warm.

This winter has brought a renewed appreciation for people like mail carriers and snow plow drivers, and for those early settlers and Native Americans who once lived here. As bad as conditions have been for us lately, what was it like braving this weather in only a log cabin or a teepee?

Can you imagine having to hunt for dinner when the wind chill dips to 50 degrees below zero? It’s not like they could order a pizza or throw something into the microwave or make a quick run through the drive-thru. As bad as it was for Kirkland residents who went hours without electricity last week, what must it have been keeping warm with only a log fire?

And what did the settlers and Indians do on those days when they couldn’t go out? Did they just sit around watching “Duck Dynasty” or “The Big Bang Theory” by candlelight? Instead of Kelly Cass bringing them regular updates on the Weather Channel, they had to study the sky or listen to Mr. Ed, their horse, stirring in his little corner of the cabin to figure out that Winter Storm Goliath was approaching.

As someone fortunate enough to live in a warm house with modern appliances, my mind keeps drifting to those who don’t have these things. I simply can’t imagine how homeless people survive in such brutal conditions. I guess I’m even more fortunate I don’t have to find out.

Whenever I stepped outside last week, it didn’t seem too bad at first. But after a couple of minutes, my face started burning and that little alarm in my head began going off, warning me something was wrong. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have anywhere to go to get out of the cold. Thank God for Hope Haven, the Rockford Rescue Mission, the Rochelle Area Emergency Center and places like that.

Speaking of shelters, a furnace broke down in a Belvidere animal shelter during the worst of it last week. Once word got out, volunteers helped attend to the animals, feeding them, keeping them warm, even adopting one, until the furnace was fixed and everything went back to normal.

On days like these, about the only thing that can truly keep us warm is doing something for someone else. Like comedian Steve Harvey says, “We’re all in this together.” The worse it gets, the more we need to remember that.

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