Back in March, as the pandemic was just beginning here in the US, we thought sheltering in place was a welcome break from our busy lives. Then it went on and on, and we changed our minds. Binge watching Tiger King and other shows got old very quickly, and we thought staying home was the worst thing that could happen. But it’s 2020, so we should have known better. Things can always get worse.
Fast forward to now, where a hurricane in October came through North GA and left, dare I say it…unprecedented…destruction in its path. Zeta huffed and puffed and blew the power down, and now we have learned staying home without power is much worse than just staying home.
Fortunately for me, I have traveled to Africa several times where the power comes and goes like a thunderstorm in the summertime. In the refugee camp where we work, there is never power. Being without requires a totally different type of thinking. In town where we stay, you never know if you will have power or for how long. I have learned a few lessons from being there which I could have never learned here in America. I will share them so, in case you get to power and can read this electronic blog, you might find some encouragement.
- You have to pivot. Letting go of what you expected to happen and shifting from one way of doing things to another is an important skill to learn. When the power goes out everything moves more slowly than usual in Africa, which is already pretty slow. A snail’s pace is an unfamiliar thing here in our country, so it is uncomfortable. Get comfortable with it.
- Sit with yourself. We don’t have to do that much here. We don’t have the time to sit quietly and just be. When we do, instead of resting, we fill the space. That’s why binge watching became a thing. Heaven forbid we sit in silence.
- Be with those in your household. They are your community. They know you better than anyone. Take the time without power to have conversations. To play games. To go on walks. I know that snail’s pace living is good for relationships. I have been a witness to communities in Africa where when you run into a friend on the way to somewhere, you stop everything and visit. Friendship is valued over efficiency.
- Read a book. Seriously, we are always saying we don’t have time to read. If you still own a real book, take it off the shelf. Dust it off. Open it up. Transport yourself to somewhere else.
- Use dry shampoo. If your water is connected to your power supply, showering is not possible. Finding ways to stay clean so your co-workers don’t smell you coming is a challenge. However, it is possible to do a sponge bath with diaper wipes. To pull your hair back or put on a hat, or get some dry shampoo and sprinkle it like a waterfall.
- Reach out to each other. When power is out, even simple things become more challenging. Charging your phone so you can communicate, seeing what you are doing in the dark, working on your computer…all of it becomes nearly impossible if you are trying to do it alone. However, if you ask for help, most anything can still be accomplished.
- Check on your neighbors. It is important that we care for one another. Find out if there is an elderly person who needs food, or a family with multiple kids who needs board games. It is the kind thing to do. Socially distanced visits are a break from the monotony of powerless living. Visiting in Africa is an art form we are missing here. The telling of stories is the best form of entertainment and connection.
- Appreciate the power. When it comes back on with all the beeping, blinking lights, and humming, feel free to jump up and down and cheer like no one is watching. In Africa, I take a cold shower and then stand in front of the fan when it comes back on to try to get cool. I plug all my devices in so when (not if) it goes out again, I have a window of time where I can still communicate. I turn on the light and prepare my lesson for the next day. I thank God for power and beg him to leave it on for a while.
There is a parallel to life of course. We are addicted to power and our need for it. When it goes away, we are left powerless. But being powerless isn’t as bad as we think it is. It requires us to take stock and evaluate. It requires us to slow down. It requires us to recognize power was never ours to begin with. If we are without it long enough, our priorities might just shift. That might be the whole lesson of 2020.
In the meantime, to all my friends who are still without electricity, use this time to pivot. Shift and wait. Know they are working around the clock so you can have your happy dance soon. Ours was only out for about 12 hours, and that is the longest it has ever been out since we have lived here. Usually, it is back on within 2 hours or so. Those line workers and tree guys are amazing. I say thank you to them all. We appreciate you more than you know.