On Heat Waves, Outer Space and Prayer

Isn’t it true that so often adversity brings us together to look after one another? And one of the greatest ways we care for ourselves is with prayer.

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I promised myself I wouldn’t blog about the weather since that seemed to be the topic everyone was talking about, so why did I need to put in my two cents? But it’s unavoidable.

It will hit at least 100 degrees on the East Coast today, turning Manhattan into a concrete oven. It was 84 degrees when I walked Millie at five o’clock this morning and just about as humid. Eighty-four! I saw two men who looked like they’d spent the night on the streets soaking each other down with a hose they apparently dragged from someone’s garden.

This is deadly heat, especially for the very young and the very old, and I was surprised to learn that heat, not storms or floods, is the biggest weather-related killer. Which might be why I see so many New Yorkers acting with the kind of consideration toward their fellow citizens you might think these conditions would preclude.

Aren’t people’s tempers supposed to rise with the thermometer? Instead, during this heat wave, I’ve noticed a kind of civic spirit take root, as if people sense these are very dangerous conditions, almost an emergency. Even the guys with the hose wanted to know if Millie and I needed to be cooled off (we declined).

I passed a corner market with a bin of water bottles out front and a hand-scrawled sign announcing the price: $0.00. And it wasn’t a mistake. I noticed cars being uncharacteristically patient with slow-moving pedestrians crossing the street. In fact I think gratuitous car horn usage is down about 50 percent.

And more and more businesses have put out big bowls of ice water for the neighborhood dogs. Just now over the PA system in the office building where Guideposts is situated came an announcement asking everyone to set their AC to 76 degrees in order to help avert a citywide power outage.

Isn’t it true that so often adversity brings us together to look after one another? And one of the greatest ways we care for ourselves is with prayer. I plan to say a few today for the people and animals who are suffering in this terrible heat, and for cooler weather to return. Quickly, I hope.

What I planned to write about was the space program and the end of the shuttle era. I found myself looking at the platinum half-moon above the city last night and thinking how cool it must be up there (p.m. temperatures of about 300 degrees below zero, in fact).

I could remember the summer night in 1969 when one step for a man made history. What an incredible accomplishment that single step was and yet what an infinitesimal one as well, given how incomprehensibly vast the universe is in terms of both time and space and how small our presence in it.

Yet that step was a leap of faith, science fiction becoming reality. I pray that in these difficult times we do not turn our backs on the universe. I believe God wants us to explore that vast vista of his creation. I think we were meant to.

But first, let’s get through this heat wave. Stay cool.

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