It’s hot out there, folks. The temperatures have been reaching one hundred degrees and I’ve been thinking of how I lived without air conditioning until I was almost twenty one years old. I’m neither bragging nor complaining. but just wondering how in the heck I was able to do that. Now I live like a virtual hermit in air conditioned comfort on really scorching days.
Not long ago the air conditioner in my car went out. I had to roll around town with the windows open. It was not fun, and my hair did not behave well with the wind blowing it around. I’ve become one hundred percent spoiled by the cooled autos and rooms that have become the norm in my city. I have unlearned the ability to survive well with open windows and fans as have most of my fellow Houstonians. Sometimes businesses and schools even shut down when the air needs repair. We break into sweats and have trouble breathing in environments that were once a way of life around here.
The local NPR station is featuring historical looks at previous hurricanes this week. When discussing hurricane Ike from 2008, they mentioned the massive power outage that came from the punishing winds. It still ranks as the largest in our state’s history. Of most concern was that people would die without air conditioning and such. It made me wonder if people died when there was no electricity at all? Were people tougher back in the day?
My husband’s ancestors settled just north of downtown Houston when Texas was still under the rule of Mexico. In the 1840s there was obviously no air conditioning or lighting or any of those things. People found ways to cope with the punishing heat of our summers, just as I did when I was young. I suppose that our bodies adapt to conditions after a time, but when does it become so bad that there really are people dying? What would we do if we had to sleep with our windows open. Would we be afraid for our lives? All kinds of questions come to mind.
It’s human nature to complain that there isn’t enough of this or that no matter how well off a person may be. For the very poor just having a roof, food to eat and a safe place to eat is a daily struggle. There are a growing numbers of homeless people in cities and towns across the country. As the price of rent get higher and higher there are those who cannot afford the most basic of necessities. I rant about heat, when there are some who would be happy just to have a place that allows them to escape the elements. Worldwide there are more individuals living in abject poverty than there are those who at least have the bare minimum. I have to admit to feeling a bit guilty for complaining that my truck is temporarily warm.
I try not to take things for granted, but I do more often than I would like. I forget that there are no doubt many who are suffering from the intense heat with no hope for a change on the horizon. I always knew that there were children in my classroom who enjoyed more food, cooler temperatures and more safety than at home in their own neighborhoods. (Not withstanding school shootings these days.) I tried to remember what it was like to live with temperatures soaring inside the house, and how it felt to open the refrigerator to see that the food supply was running low. My mom found ways to stretch what we had so that we never once missed a meal, and she had a way of keeping us grateful for what we did have rather than pining for more. Some of my students were not that lucky.
I’ve thought a great deal about how things once were and still are for some as I have read To Kill A Mockingbird with my grandson. I’ve had a number of discussions with him because I can tell that he is shocked by the portrait of the south when an innocent man was all too often found guilty of a crime that he did not commit. I’ve seen the cotton fields near my grandson’s school and thought of the enslaved people who worked under the searing sun picking the crops that made their masters rich. I’ve remembered how lucky I was even without air just because I happened to be born into a family of European descent. I’ve thought of all of the opportunities that allowed me to accumulate the trappings of the middle class.
My entire house is now donned with luxuries that I never even dreamed of owning when I was young, things that everyone seems to have these days. I rarely have to wash a dish by hand. I haven’t mowed a lawn in years, and even when I did I rode on a tractor. My refrigerator keeps me well stocked with ice. My air conditioner runs at an even seventy five degrees, fooling me into believing that it is cool even on the hottest days. My television has a screen as large as a picture window and the characters are all in living color. I carry a phone in my purse and I type my blog on a laptop that literally sits on my lap. I am able to download a book in seconds and begin reading right away. Such things have become so common place that I forget to be thankful for them.
My car will soon enough be repaired and the cool air will keep me happy and fresh as I go on my errands and to my appointments. I plan to remind myself how lucky I actually am instead of forgetting about the many people who have never even experienced such a lovely luxury. That is what it most truly is, a bountiful way of living that has become an expectation rather than a joy.
It’s hot out there and hopefully we will all stay cool until the fall comes to make the temperatures more bearable. In the meantime we would do well to be thankful for whatever we have.