In praise of a winter view

The past four months have been a meteorological phenomenon of astronomical proportions. In other words, this winter has been out of this world. And unlike the way we normally use that phrase, I’m not sure we’d all agree it was a good thing.

This year, contrary to what the calendar stated, winter started in November. That’s when our state set a new record for the amount of rainfall in a single month. Then came the windstorm and blackout of December. In January and February we dealt with snow and ice. Did I also mention the spell of frigid cold days when the family thermometer refused to climb up to the freezing mark? And what about those unprecedented number of snow days? Can we plan on combining an end-of-the-school year party with a 4th of July barbecue?

Viewing winter in the rearview mirror is bound to bring a smile to most of our faces. Whether we blame what we’ve been through on El Nino or Global Warming or an Old Man Winter that isn’t as old and feeble as you might think, we are only to happy to welcome spring.

When we shopped for a home on Mercer Island, we noticed that several of the realtor descriptions boasted a “winter view of the lake” or a “winter view of the Seattle skyline.” At the time, Wendy and I were clueless about what that meant. After our first winter, the meaning of that two-word phrase became obvious. Once the deciduous trees have disrobed until spring, you can see what otherwise is hidden. Our view of the world beyond our island is enhanced because of what happens to leaf-bearing trees during the winter.

This past season a “winter view” has come to mean something else to me. I’m thinking of how the challenges of the winter we endured have provided onlookers with a view of our island (and its residents) not normally seen. Winter tested our character and values big time. Those who observed what was going on had a view of who Mercer Islanders are when the chips are down. We are far more than upper middle class suburbanites consumed with our private pursuits, affordable luxuries and personal stresses. We are people who bear the image of God as demonstrated by our genuine care and compassion for those in need.

During the week-long power outage, we helped each other by sharing portable generators with our neighbors. Those with gas-top stoves shared warm meals with those who could only barbecue on their outdoor grills. Extra bedrooms were made available to friends who couldn’t escape to a hotel in Seattle. I can still see the line of down-coat-clad folks in the parking lot at the northend QFC. They were eating hotdogs and drinking hot cocoa compliments of the store. But there was more than a spontaneous tailgate party going. There was authentic community. People sharing their stories of survival amid hearty laughs and empathetic nods.

I have a cousin in Norway who is known for his pithy sayings. One maxim attributed to him celebrates the advantages of maintaining a challenging exercise regimen. “Plague your body or it will plague you.” Cousin Bjarne is also wont to say, “Whether the weather is cold or whether the weather is hot, we’ll weather the weather whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.”

And that’s exactly what we did as a community of people from a myriad of faith backgrounds, various walks of life and an assorted array of professions. We weathered the weather together.

There is a proverb in the Old Testament that underscores what this past winter revealed in us. “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17).

Friends and family, can I hear a rousing amen?

Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.

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