By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
One of the wonderful things about the internet and social media is how it allows people to connect across long distances. Whether staying in touch with old friends, long-distance family, or chatting with new friends in far-off locales, this ability to connect over distance is a good thing.
But one thing it can lead to is inequitable comparisons, with no regard for context. For instance, a friend recently shared how his father, who lives in Alaska, teased him about his excitement over a few inches of snow while sharing his own photos of several feet.
It’s funny, and meant entirely in good nature. But it brought up a thing I’ve tried to be more aware of recently; that we can’t ever fairly judge another’s situation purely from our own perspective and experience.
I’ve been guilty of this myself. Even when I had a better than average grasp of their situation, it was easy for me to slide into judging others from my own point of view, rather than trying to see things from where they sit.
Sticking with the snow analogy, I’ve found myself doing things like condescending to my friends in Texas when they complain about cold weather and snow.
I know. It’s not a good look for a guy who got snowed out of his home in weather an Alaskan would laugh at. What makes it even worse is I know better.
I lived in Texas for nearly a decade. I understand they don’t normally get weather like this, and so they don’t prepare for it in the same way we do. They definitely don’t prepare for it the same way an Alaskan does.
Neither does their local government. They allocate funds to other priorities, which are more pressing for them on a consistent basis. So, they don’t have as many snowplows, or salt trucks, or large stockpiles of salt. The average citizen doesn’t have chains for their tires, or even snow tires.
So, a covering of snow and ice you and I might expect our road crews to make short work of, or to drive on for short distances over gravel roads, becomes a genuine hazard for them.
On the other hand, when I lived in Colorado the levels of ice and snow that have recently caused us to shut down government wouldn’t have been an excuse to be late for work. School definitely wouldn’t have been canceled. You might have to dig through a five foot snowbank left by the municipal road crews who scraped your street before you could get your car out, but you were going.
Colorado gets this weather on a more consistent basis, and they’re prepared for it. Even so, areas that would cause issue for them, especially in the high mountains, wouldn’t impact an Alaskan who might have their own dogsled, or a snowmobile or other tracked vehicle, for navigating unplowed and untreated roads.
When people roll their eyes at the situations others find themselves in, because it isn’t a situation that would hinder them, they need to remember the difficulty that person is facing in the situation isn’t necessarily a sign of any personal weakness or lack of preparation. It may be more a sign of their personal or community circumstances, and priorities they have set, based on their needs and resources. We can’t judge everyone like an Alaskan when the likelihood of flooding, losing crops to drought, or any other situation is much more likely, and important to plan for, than the unexpected snow.
(Alaskans are still pretty cool, tough, and awesomely self-sufficient though. And they make me really want one of those vans with tank tracks instead of tires.)
Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org