Thursday, February 11, 2010

Live Like They're Melting

Earlier this week, while the Mid-Atlantic states were getting dumped with record-breaking snow, the deep south was treated to an unusual amount of the white stuff as well. Late Monday night, a friend of mine who lives in central Arkansas related a story (via Facebook) that as she was driving home from the store at 1:30am, a large crowd of kids was still playing at the golf course, building snowmen and snow forts, sledding and sliding, and bringing the mayhem that often results from the combination children and snow. In a part of the country where a few snow flakes can evoke a temporary hysteria, a few inches of snow was manna from heaven for children and adults alike.

The picture she painted stood in contrast to storm that dropped six inches of snow on us in central Illinois the following morning, during which we stayed bottled up inside the house, my son glued to his PlayStation for most of the day. It was just another matter of course in the Midwest, a staple of winter that sometimes cancels school, but doesn't stir the same excitement as it does in warmer climes.

The snow that fell in the south has already started to melt, and children across the region have returned to school. Our streets are nearly clear, but the snow is destined to stay for a while, and may get deeper in the coming days. As I think about the how the snow was celebrated down south, but simply tolerated here, 500 miles north, I am reminded of the strength of transience in the creation of perceived value. Because of its infrequency and lack of permanence, snow in the south is treated as a gift rather than a hindrance.

The difference in the perception of snow is simply laws of economics applied to precipitation. Supply and demand. When something is in short supply, the demand for it -- and its perceived value -- goes up. Scarcity creates value. Transience is simply scarcity wearing the colors of time.

If scarcity and transience create value, what of abundance and permanence? Do they have the opposite effect? Are those things that are plentiful and unwavering in our lives devalued just because of their stable, predictable nature? I think often they are. We somehow grow to expect certain people, things, and occurrences to always be in adequate supply.

When we take the stalwarts of our lives as given, and fail to celebrate and savor their presence in our daily lives, we lower their value. As we look down on what is, and dream of what could be, we devalue the present. When we assume that our loved ones will be there tomorrow, we reduce their importance today.

I found an important message written in the Arkansas snow, a message that forced me look around at all those people, things and events in my life -- especially those that I take for granted. It's made me think that, perhaps, I need to start enjoying them with the vitality of a child sledding on a golf course in the middle of the night, as if I could hear the thermometer rise, each degree one step closer to their demise.

It's made me think that maybe, just maybe, I should start to live like they're melting.

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