“It will never happen to me”. So we try to convince ourselves. In my striving for comfort, security and control, I so easily fool myself into believing I’m as bullet-proof as a teenage boy thinks. And then life happens. A deadly pileup on an icy freeway, road rage steals the life of a friend, a beloved son is taken by addiction or depression, an Arctic blast paralyzes a city, a pandemic changes the course of history. The dreaded list goes on, and yet I strategize – perhaps I can run from this and avoid it, or quickly get through it and deny it, or will I succumb to it, lie down hopelessly and despair in it?
In the face of unavoidable pain and suffering, how are we to prepare? How do we find what Bob Dylan wrote about – Shelter from the Storm? We happen to be in the business of shelter, in a physical sense at least. Foundations, walls and roof to keep the elements out, mouldings to beautify the inside, and windows and doors to see and access the world outside. In the building of our world, we are often tempted to save some money and time and hope for the best. Risk takers like the early Texas pioneers heading west during the rainy periods only to be beaten back by droughts a few years later. It wasn’t really possible to farm that land until the invention of the windmill provided a backup plan.
As cities grew and engineers and architects guided, contingencies were developed – structural loads for snow accounted for, topographical lines drawn for floods, building codes drafted for fire, electricity and mechanical protections. Our modern world in the U.S. protects us so well, we tend to drop our guards. We expect the light to always come on when we throw the switch. In Lusaka, Zambia, electricity is so unreliable that those who can afford it have redundant power systems – generators, with battery storage capability. During their rainy season, the city water is so polluted with runoff that water collection systems on roofs with cisterns (as well as water trucks) provide clean water.
Early this morning, with frigid temperatures outside, our power rolled off and my mind raced through our options as our house rapidly cooled. All of a sudden, our thermal building envelope, R-values of insulation and U-factors of windows matter. Emergency preparedness is no longer just a merit badge class for my sons in Boy Scouts. Well, there went the power again. How long before the pipes freeze?
As much as we try to insulate ourselves, emergencies, afflictions and pain and suffering will always be a part of life. So how do we live joyfully against the background of these terrible realities? There is a cost to prepare – physically, emotionally and spiritually, and we all need support if we are not to succumb to despair. Perhaps it is in the face of such trauma that we take life seriously, and yet can be joyful and grateful for this fragile life and the relationships that we have been blessed with.
~ Dave Reichert
- Freight backed up at ports until June – See Craig Webb’s blog Tsunami of Freight
- Window manufacturers lead times at 8 weeks
- I-Joists in short supply – talk with your engineer about 2×12 or open-web trusses
- Western Red Cedar – consider Japanese Sugi (fencing) or Alaskan Yellow Cedar
- Hardie Siding and LP Smart Side on allocation
- Build extra time into your schedules – stay in touch with suppliers regarding lead times!