The title of my column is both a reference to an actual event, which I experienced first-hand, and a common phrase used when we choose to stay firmly anchored in our point of view about an individual or group.
I was a local newspaper reporter when The Ice Storm of the Century of January 1998 hit the community I lived in with three consecutive days of freezing rain. Imagine all the beautiful trees of the Comox Valley bowing under the weight of frozen water. On the fourth morning, as I stepped out of my home, I heard a deadening silence, occasionaly broken by the sounds of the cracking branches. The solid grey of the sky was a perfect background to the hellish vision of nature collapsing around me.
This was not everyone’s experience within the community. Those in the center of where the storm hit began the ordeal of living without running water, sewage and electricity for up to a month. A few kilometers away, their neighbours, who were more fortunate, complained about their satellite dishes not working because of the inches of ice interfering with the reception of the signal.
The reason I am writing about this event is to respond to a reader’s unpublished comment last week, which due to its specific content, I chose to address with this column. When I began to cover the aftermath of the ice storm, I witnessed a most amazing reversal of mindset. In some cases, the road travelled in one day was nothing short of extraordinary. People told me their stories about feeling disheartened with the overwhelming situation of spoiled food, no water supply and useless electric heaters with -20 C and colder temperatures, when they heard the knock on their front door. In many cases, the neighbour on the other side was the last person they would have ever expected to offer them help. That day, many people changed their views about an individual they had previously felt most justified to dislike.
I remember doing the same thing myself with the director of a schoolboard, who I felt had been manipulative and condescending during a meeting with parents. Later, I found out that, upon his retirement, he had put all his belongings in storage and left to help a non-profit organization in India. It is very easy to pass judgment on anyone based on a limited number of interactions. I once experienced the disdain of a woman, who appeared to dislike me. Months later, she became one of my biggest supporters. I had done nothing to change her attitude towards me, but more than likely, she had received information which allowed her to reassess her opinion of me.
Like the tides changing our landscape at the water’s edge, may my words and experience allow us to pause before repeating a past judgment in a new situation. Today is the present moment. Its gift is the daily opportunity to have a change of heart. Everyone will benefit in our community, beginning with you and me.Catherine Hedrich