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Column: Keep calm and make responsible choices

Tina Bridenstine
The Shawnee News-Star

Do you remember a time when those “Keep calm” posters were everywhere? “Keep calm and drink tea,” “Keep calm and call The Doctor,” and of course, the original, “Keep calm and carry on.”

According to dictionary.com, it is a popular slogan from World War II Britain that calls for “persistence in the face of challenge.”

I didn't live through WWII myself – not by a long shot – but I grew up hearing stories of the Greatest Generation and all they endured. They still loom large in movies, TV shows, and historical fiction. There are so many stories of land girls, rationing, the Blitz, evacuation of children, and more. And that's just in Great Britain, not to mention the horrors going on in Germany and other counties.

I've been thinking of those things a lot this week as the region has been slammed by snow and sub-zero temperatures. Old man winter doesn't usually hit us so hard, so it's not the sort of thing we've prepared for. Pipes froze, even for those who took the precaution of dripping them. Water mains broke, forcing city crews out in brutal conditions to fix them. And, of course, there were the rolling blackouts. OG&E, Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc., and other companies in the Southwest Power Pool, were faced with a power grid pushed to its max as extreme cold temperatures put extra strain on the system and winter conditions caused a shortage of supply. So many people were without power for one to two hours as utility companies scrambled to prevent a larger crisis.

People were angry. Of course they were.

We're all cold and worried about so many things. Is there enough food in the kitchen? Is it safe to drive to get more? Is it safe to drive to work to continue to make a pay check? Will the water continue to run, or will the pipes freeze or a water main burst? If the pipes freeze, how much will that cost to fix? And then when the electricity is out, even for only an hour, the temperatures drop inside, especially for those who live in homes with poor insulation. Some are more vulnerable than others. Some have to worry about young children, the elderly, or even how to run necessary medical equipment like oxygen without electricity. And meanwhile, everyone on Facebook is talking about the same thing: But why is the Chesapeake still firing up so the Thunder can play?

So when people grumble about the power outages, I completely understand. We are all feeling the stress in a situation beyond the control of any of us.

But then there those who don't just complain, but also refuse to change anything in their life to contribute to the well-being of everyone – themselves included. When area power companies asked customers to please, PLEASE cut back on electricity usage where possible to prevent the rolling blackouts – or worse, an outright failure of the grid – I saw so many comments on social media from those who just could not be bothered. One person asked why they shouldn't set their thermostat as high as they want, all while running the washer, dryer, and dishwater simultaneously. Someone else asked why not just use as much electricity as needed until the system breaks.

We're a long way from the Greatest Generation – who, lets face it, had problems far bigger than bumping a thermostat down two degrees – and their “Keep calm and carry on” slogan.

In the words of my generation, “This is why we can't have nice things.” Because while so many of us are trying so hard to do our part, suffering temporary, minor inconveniences to prevent a major problem, others are selfishly saying, “OK, but I don't want to, so I won't.”

So, please, when you get out of bed today, think about someone other than yourself. Whether keeping your house a few degrees colder to prevent a failure of our power grid or wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of a world-wide pandemic, ask yourself, “Is this really going to hurt me? Or is it just a minor inconvenience I am blowing out of proportion?” And then maybe consider making up your mind to do the responsible, mature thing.

Or, to quote a slogan from when I was a teen, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” And then act accordingly.