In fear of March, “maybe”

In Richmond, Virginia on December 24, 2022, the high temperature was 24 degrees. That night, the low reached 8 degrees. The air was bitterly cold.

Six days later on December 30, a high of 69 degrees was recorded.

Tomorrow, Thursday, February 23, 2023, in Richmond, we are expecting unseasonably warm temperatures. We could hit 83. That might be a new record.

Unbelievably, two days later on Saturday, February 25, forecasters are predicting a wintry mix.

This winter, except for a surprising light dusting of snow on the morning of February 2, frozen precipitation has been missing.

Photo by Bill Pike

For several weeks, the yellow blooms of winter jasmine on the sloping banks below a retaining wall in the back parking lot of our church have been a bright spot on dreary gray winter days.

Photo by Bill Pike

On February 8, some of the daffodils in our yard were blooming, and two doors down in a neighbor’s front yard a saucer magnolia tree was in full bloom.

Photo by Bill Pike
Photo by Bill Pike

West of Richmond, out in the valleys of the Blue Ridge, farmers who harvest summer peaches and fall apples are nervous with this early unusual hint of spring.

I keep asking myself where is winter? When are we going to be punched with the right mixture of cold air and moisture colliding to form a winter weather event?

Right now, the original winter storm panic conspirators, grocery stores and the producers of milk and bread are quietly thinking—maybe there is something to this global warming business after all.

And then there is March, an unstable month, whirling with madness. Winter tries to hang around, and spring works to push winter away. This seasonal tug of war is a rollercoaster. A spectacular spring day can be followed by the gray encore of winter returning for one last swipe of misery.

Burlington, North Carolina is featured in the book series Images of America. I was born and raised in Burlington. In the book, on page 125 is a photograph of downtown Burlington in March 1960.

In that photo, streets and sidewalks are covered in a deep snow. In fact, the first three Wednesdays in March of that year, Burlington was hit with consecutive snowstorms. Author, Don Bolden, wrote in the caption: “Spring seemed a distant dream.”

Those consecutive snowstorms are why I fear March after a bewildering mild Virginia winter.

And yet, March brings other fears too.

For college basketball fans March Madness arrives. Fans hope their favorite team will be selected for the NCAA men’s tournament. Those same fans hope their team doesn’t experience the madness of an early upset.

When baseball players report to spring training, they are probably carrying a bit of fear around in their travel bags. Players hope to be injury free, and they hope to earn a spot on a team for the upcoming season.

Mad weather, and the whims of basketball and baseball gods are nothing compared to the fears some people experience.

Today, a student will attend school with the fear of being unmercifully teased and bullied.

A single parent working one full and two part-time jobs, silently wonders how much longer can she maintain this schedule while trying to meet the needs of four school age children.

A doctor will deliver the bad news to a patient who beat cancer once—the cancer has returned, and this time the doctor has no treatment options.

At this very moment, the darkness of fear will push a person to die by suicide.

Over in Ukraine, brave families wonder when the next barrage of Russian fired missiles will hit their neighborhood.

In Syria and Turkey, people who survived the earthquakes fear more instability as their governments struggle to deliver assistance.

Fear is nothing new in our lives.

Fear is a persistent foe.

Fear is in the light, shadows, and darkness.

Depending upon the source, the Bible references fear a lot. One source I checked had 336 citations related to fear.

I think we are supposed to find comfort in scriptures like the following from Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I wonder what the bullied student, the single parent, the cancer patient, the death by suicide person, the people of Ukraine, Turkey, and Syria might think of those holy words?

And in truth, those holy words, and the challenges found in everyday living in every corner of the world are why I struggle with my Christianity.

Perhaps like me, you have lots of fears deep inside your soul.

One of my biggest fears is America.

I fear our division, our incivility, our disrespect of the truth, our inability to acknowledge, and our reluctance to work together are going to be our end.

Olla Belle Reed was born in the mountains of North Carolina in 1916. Miss Reed became an accomplished folk singer, songwriter, and banjo player. Her song, “I’ve Endured” is a beauty. I became familiar with the song on The Steep Canyon Rangers’ album North Carolina Songbook. At the end of each stanza, Miss Reed asks an important question: “How long can one endure?”

Whether we want to admit it or not, I believe that question is pivotal for each of us. How long can we, our country continue to endure our challenges?

In William Faulkner’s short story “Race At Morning,” the character, Mr. Ernest, makes this observation as the story is ending: “Maybe,” Mister Ernest said. “The best word in our language, the best of all. That’s what mankind keeps going on: Maybe.”

Even though our division, our differences are as wide as the disparity in temperatures from December 24 to February 23, and our irrational thinking can be as maddening as March, maybe, we’ll find the courage to humbly acknowledge our shortcomings and promise to work cooperatively with each other to solve America’s problems.


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