Tonight’s weather forecast has gotten me thinking about the grocery store.
March is the most unpredictable of months, when winter still seems determined to hang around for a while and spring urges it not to fight the inevitable. The result is a mishmash of weather designed to both lift us up from the doldrums of the cold and the bleak yet remind us that we’re not quite there yet. Robins and flowers are appearing in my small town, yet everyone is well aware of the fact that some of our biggest snowstorms have occurred closer to Easter than Christmas.
So when the smiley weatherman said there was a chance of snow showers after midnight, everyone (and likely the weatherman included) knew deep down that a “chance of snow showers” often results in a blizzard and the complete shutdown of civilization for a few days.
I responded the same way everyone around here does when preparing for the possibility of a storm. I inventoried the kitchen.
Not for food and drink, per se. Not for soda or coffee or tea or eggs or cereal or meat. No. In a storm, those things don’t matter. What matters above all else, what guarantees survival in the midst of chaos, is bread and milk.
Though well-educated and very bright, the weatherman on the television is not always accurate when it comes to predicting nature’s mood swings. If you want to know what’s going to happen and when and how bad, you go to the Food Lion on Main Street. You walk through the doors and take an immediate left to the last two aisles, and you see how many people are scrambling for bread and milk. If there are only a few shoppers milling about, chances are good that everything will be fine. If it’s a mob, however, you’d better join in. Because trouble’s coming.
Never mind the fact that even in the worst of snowstorms, the good folks at the Department of Transportation will likely have the main roads cleared within a day. And never mind the fact that even if they didn’t, the four-wheel-drive in your driveway will still likely get you where you need to go. Those things don’t matter. What matters is that you can walk into your kitchen and find milk in your refrigerator and bread on your countertop.
We are living in the modern age. We have the benefit of a plethora of choices when it comes to food and drink. A simple trip to the store can get you bananas from Brazil, Pineapples from Hawaii, corn from Iowa, beef from Texas, and fish from Alaska. There is fancy coffee, plain tea, and more varieties of soda than I can count. Still, it’s the bread and milk.
The reason why this is so has escaped me for years. But now, whether through wisdom or experience or a little of both, I think I’ve found the answer.
Extravagance doesn’t offer us the comfort we need when the storms hit. The exotic and fancy loses their appeal. Instead we crave the very things that have gotten untold generations through the tough times and weathered untold tempests.
The basics. The essentials.
Bread and milk.
I see this every day now. We’re all caught in the storm. While politicians debate and economists theorize and the media search for answers, solutions seem few and fleeting. The old doesn’t work anymore, they say. The tried and true has been attempted and found wanting. So it’s time for the exotic and fancy.
Me, I’m not so sure.
Because the very things that have seen this country through the hard times in the past can see us through the hard times now. Things like faith and charity. Family and community. Holiness and commitment.
Most are now considered outdated. Some are under direct attack. That’s a shame, I think. Because a home without the basics is at the mercy of a storm. And so are we.