Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

If its not happening to me, then it is not real. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. I think it is how we protect ourselves from overload. I have an example:

I worked for a major Minnesota firm with a relatively new acquisition in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ann Arbor had a horrendous, record setting blizzard while I was there. Three feet of snow and power outages were common. My motel lost power and the pipes burst. There was 3″ of ice on the lobby’s tile floor the next morning. Someone had strung a rope across the road so we could all walk across the road to another hotel, also without power but with functioning gas stoves. In our ‘just in time’ society what they had on hand was spaghetti and canned tomato sauce. But hey, it was a hot breakfast so cheers to the kitchen staff.

My calls back to the home office were a lesson in “but it’s not happening here.”

“When are you coming back and how many meetings do you expect me to reschedule?” She was a wonderful, warm and caring human being and a great assistant, by the way. She was just experiencing my absence in a very different way than I was.

“I just paid $25 for an extra blanket because there is no heat. Reschedule meetings until I call you from the airport.” (Thinking to myself, cripes, Minnesota has blizzards too. How hard can this be to understand. It’s not like our headquarters are in Miami or Phoenix.)

After three days, I picked up three businessmen at a gas station who were also trying to get to the airport. I viewed them as muscle to push the rental car if I got stuck. I think they thought I was nuts but they got into my car.

“Do you think it is safe to drive in this?” one of them asked me.

“I am a Minnesotan and I have driven in worse.” I replied. “Besides I picked you up so that if we get stuck you will be enough to push this car out of a ditch. You okay with going on?” They were as desperate as I to get out of Michigan.

At 15 mph it took us three hours to arrive safely at the airport. Audible sighs of relief were made by all. I called my assistant who said, “Well its about time.”

The blizzard in Michigan had made national news. But it was clear and sunny in Minnesota and the blizzard wasn’t happening to them.

I think there is some self-protection at play here. If we truly empathized with every weather event and every natural disaster, every human tragedy, most of us would be in tears our every waking moment. We’d be paralyzed with empathy, if there is such a state.

I’d venture a guess that the same thing happens when we speak of homeless people and poverty and “name the thing that leaves people out.”

This is why I believe that government is the answer to the question of how can we all be in it together. FEMA and other very good government services make it possible for me to be in it with you (whatever it is that you need) and to not spend my days in a heap of despair.

Reader Comments Welcome.