Thursday, January 18, 2007

What's Under the Ice?

Well we got through our week of frigid weather in Houston. I tell you with all the weather reports I saw on television and heard on radio I was ready to stock up on water, candles, canned food and Sports Illustrateds (not in that order) and wait for the National Guard. My sweet daughters were so excited about maybe-possibly-perhaps missing school on Tuesday that they ruined their holiday on Monday (MLK day) in premature anticipation. Imagine their dismay when the little scrolling line on the bottom of the TV news on Tuesday morning never showed “Cy-Fair School District.” Life is pain.

But wait! Cy-Fair schools did close on Wednesday (along with West Houston C of C) and we all got to experience a little break from our normal routines, with many people working from home or taking the day off. What’s that famous expression by the Marine general, “It’s not much of a war but it’s the only war we’ve got.” It wasn’t much of an ice storm but it’s all we had in Houston and we ought not to disparage the experience or compare ourselves enviously to the good folks in Dallas who closed everything in sight and huddled inside watching movies.

Apparently there was some protest about the decision to close Cy-Fair’s schools (no word yet on whether WHCC people protested cancellation of Wednesday night service), which led to a memo being circulated at warp speed via email around northwest Houston. I personally felt CFISD’s decision was a reasonable and prudent one though I wouldn’t have complained if they had gone ahead with classes. After all, it’s no small thing to cancel classes for a day -- that time has to be made up somewhere and it better not be on my kids’ Spring Break. And I was quite impressed to read how much work and consideration went into the decision. The memo said that CFISD’s inclement weather (fancy language for “bad weather”) protocol is for twenty staff members to drive the streets between 3-5 a.m. and assess safety conditions. This resulted in a 4 a.m. decision to go ahead with classes. But at 4:45 a.m. reports of icing on streets in northwest Houston began to come in, along with reports of a number of accidents. After a conference call at 5 a.m. the superintendent made the decision to cancel classes.

I was in a deep snooze at 5 a.m. so I appreciate the diligent work. And it brings to mind a larger issue, which is how often we look critically at peoples’ decisions or actions without knowing anything about the conditions or stresses under which they made them. It is a truism that we tend to judge other people by their actions and ourselves by our motives. How much more should we attempt to see other peoples’ motives behind their actions, and in regard to their motives, make charitable judgments about them? That is, assume until proven otherwise that the motives are honorable or, at the least, not dishonorable. After all, which would you prefer, that people make charitable or uncharitable judgments about you? This is one of the things Jesus means when he teaches, “Do not judge, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1).

So that is what I learned during the Great Houston Ice Storm of 2007. That and the fact I’m glad I’m not one of the people driving the streets from 3-5 a.m. during bad, um, inclement weather.


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