The complaints started late Wednesday night and ran over into Thursday morning.
Anger and frustration boiled hot on the streets of Washington, DC. The target? The snow, and the region’s snow removal agencies. The snow came and made travel frustrating, maddening…the region was unprepared for the snow or the traffic. The wailing increased over the weekend, when more snow dumped its fury on the entire east coast, setting records, blocking traffic, cancelling events, making life miserable for thousands upon thousands.
But somewhere in the blizzard of both snow and cursing hid a voice of gratitude.
That’s right, gratitude. Because some of us remember what a snowstorm, or any storm, meant for us while locked up…or better put, locked down. A storm of that magnitude meant lockdown in your cell while corrections staff fretted a power outage. Forget being cooped up in your house for two days. Try being crowded in a one-two man cell with three residents for two days, one of you sleeping by the toilet, and no Fe-breeze, yo, “courtesy flush” notwithstanding.
Gratitude…because thousands of family members were denied the possibility of a prison visit last weekend. Kids couldn’t see their momma or daddy, mothers could not visit their sons or daughters, siblings stayed home, grandparents wailed over lost time and money invested in a potential visit. A friend of mine who did federal time mentioned how the snow reminded her of the loneliness of her bid; it highlighted what it mean to be cut off from friends and family. Yes, gratitude.
I could go outside, breathe cold fresh air, even shovel when the blizzard stopped. I got to watch children playing, young black men– stereotyped as lazy do-nothings– turn into entrepreneurs with shovels, icicles form from trees, not watchtowers. Gratitude.
Whenever trouble comes, perspective is in order. You can look at it as a problem that overwhelms you, or as a challenge to be accepted. Whether you are struggling to find a job, or involved in the struggle to change criminal justice laws that make it hard to find jobs, perspective can be the difference between success and repeated failure. Gratitude starts with being thankful for how far you and I have come, and the opportunities we have to make it work this time. Even working on gratitude for little things like running water, a warm shower, and a room bigger than a cell can build the muscles of faith that support your best efforts at being productive.
Or you can be like the agencies in DC, unprepared for Wednesday’s small storm, turning a little challenge into a big mess. And the cursing, anger and frustration will be heard again.