“Holler, if you need help”

On Saturday, January 30, 2021, Richmond and the central Virginia area were all wound up.

This being wound up was courtesy of our local television weather forecasters.

 For the last couple of days, they have been whipping us into a frenzy. Chattering with a nonstop obsession, like people who had consumed gallons of coffee and caffeine loaded energy drinks.

Over, and over, and over again, this mantra of excessive repetition kept pounding into our minds this winter weather phenomenon—snow, snow, snow, snow, snow.

I felt like I was listening to a reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” Like Edgar with the ringing of ‘the bells, the bells, the bells,’ I was teetering toward the edge of mental instability with the cries of ‘the snow, the snow, the snow, the snow!!’

For me, the only forecast I need to know that snow is on the way is when the huge front in loader arrives in the back parking lot of our church. 

When that massive piece of machinery is dropped off, I know the guys at the company who clear our parking lots believe the forecasters—it is going to snow.

So, on Saturday morning, I made a stop at our local hardware store. I was looking for a snow shovel to use at church that was designed to push snow off a sidewalk.

As soon as I entered the store,  I saw all of the snow shovels positioned near the entrance. But, I walked deeper into the store, back to the aisle where all the long handled tools were displayed.

Once in that section, a friendly clerk asked if I needed help. 

I told him no, and further explained I was just looking around.

He responded with, “Well if you need help, just holler.”

The clerk’s comment stuck with me.

Americans, myself included are good at hollering.

We hollered a lot in 2020, and we’re still hollering as 2021 begins.

In truth, we are a wounded and worn nation. Our hollering isn’t going away.

We need help in all kinds of ways.

I see it everyday in my work at our church. 

As Brian Wilson sang in his song “Love and Mercy”—‘a lot of people out there hurting, and it really scares me.’

He was right. At this very moment, there are a lot of people hurting.

We’ve been hollering for a long time about housing solutions for the homeless, jobs for the unemployed, food for the hungry, equity in education, health care, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

The pandemic has pushed these systems beyond their capacities, and in all of those challenges there is one little holler that keeps gulping for air—mental health.

I can’t tell you how many Zoom meetings I have participated in since last March, but I can assure you in a lot of those meetings mental health surfaces. 

The pandemic has frazzled people. Their thinking, emotions, reasoning, anxiety, and fears have been singed by this stress.

The instability created by all that frazzling is significant. There are a lot of people out there hollering—I can’t take this much longer, I need some relief, I need someone to listen, to hear me, to acknowledge me, —I am worn out, broken.

The movie Captain Phillips is based upon the real life hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates. Watching this movie is intense. It is not for a fainthearted viewer.

As the hijackers take over the ship, there is a lot of hollering. When the lead hijacker begins communicating with Captain Phillips, this scrawny, but fiery teenager tells Captain Phillips:  “No problem, Irish, everything gonna be ok.”

At the end of the day that frazzled friend, neighbor, co-worker, stranger wants someone to assure them—“everything gonna be ok.”

As I continue to age, the word snow frazzles me. I no longer have the heart of a kid for it.

But, I will tell you this.

Last Sunday morning with the snow still falling, we ventured out into our yard with some happy guests—two of our grandchildren. They were visiting for the weekend with their parents from Summerfield, North Carolina.

And at some point, I stood still. 

For a few brief seconds, the world was quiet, peaceful, motionless—the snow had silenced the hollering.

Oh, how I wish helping all those who are hurting was as simple as snowflakes falling from a gray sky.

All that hollering out there isn’t going away.

But, maybe we can help.

Maybe, in our hearts, we can be a kinder, more considerate people, as graceful with those who are frazzled and hollering for help as a gentle January snowflake.

The snow forecaster Trinity UMC parking lot photo by Bill Pike

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