Oh! We're having a heatwave, a tropical heatwave The temperature's rising, it isn't surprising… -From “Heat Wave,” by Irving Berlin
Cloudy skies and after-storm breezes cooled the mountain as I walked down the road to the mailbox late Saturday afternoon. I’d walked early in the morning with Heathcliff, but twice in one day is too much for a large, eleven-and-a-half-year-old dog. Not so for me, I’d assured myself as I drank a tall glass of water and refilled the dogs’ water bowl before donning my trail shoes.
About half-way back, the sky cleared and the breeze stilled. Heat and humidity returned. I mopped sweat on my face and neck with tissue I keep in my pocket and mail sack. As the road became increasingly steep, I paced myself, monitoring my heart rate and stopping to catch my breath. By the time I got home, my loose-fitting, light-colored clothing was soaked.
Heat waves happen every summer—it isn’t surprising, though from news reports you’d think they were unique occurrences. “Massive heat wave,” “Potentially deadly,” “Dangerous heat wave,” “Temperatures soaring.” No doubt about it, heat exhaustion and heat-related illnesses can be deadly. Young children, the elderly, and pets are especially vulnerable. That’s why we need to take care of ourselves and our neighbors.
Two Sundays ago, the Gospel reading was the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. In his message, our pastor said that at various times and situations we all behave like each of the characters: the traveler who chose to walk a dangerous route, like I had, the robber who means to harm like a heat wave, the people who do not stop to help, and the person who does.
No one came along while I walked last Saturday afternoon, and I wasn’t carrying my cell phone. I rarely do, though I’m never alone and know who to call for help. That’s why I call my walks “God time.”
Still, I wasn’t going to test God by continuing my foolishness. So, when I got home, I stripped off my wet clothes, let myself cool a bit before drinking water and eating a salty snack, then took a cool shower. My parents had taught me well.
I grew up in southern New England in the 50s and 60s, when air conditioning in homes and cars was unusual. Other than one or two heat waves during summer—a week to ten days each—air conditioning wasn’t really necessary, except in stores and movie theaters. They did big business during heat waves.
My family closed up the house during the day and drew the shades. At night, we opened windows after the temperature outside had cooled then turned on the attic fan my father had installed for just this purpose. Mother took us swimming during the day—don’t ask me why I, the blond three-year-old on the left, scowled in this picture—and had us take a cool bath before bedtime. Or she talked Daddy into taking us for an evening dunk in the spring-fed pool.
Not everyone has the cooling resources my family did or we do now. Even if our electricity goes out, Keith and I have a whole-house backup generator to keep everything including the air conditioning going. But we can all take precautions and be Good Samaritans to our neighbors.
Who are our neighbors? Pastor asked two Sundays ago. Everyone with whom we come into contact.
Stay cool, my friends.
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