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It's a dark and stormy day here in coastal North Carolina. Tropical bands of rain with the occasional rumble of thunder are interspersed with drizzle. It's dark enough to trigger my Christmas lights to come on. Not much in the way of wind so far, but a quick check of the very colorful radar maps, and the constant beeping of weather apps reminds us that we're surrounded by some nasty weather.

Indoors, there's been the rumble of argument. Our neighbors have been away, and they're returning tonight from a Christmas visit to their son's house in Indiana. They left at the right time, since that location has been getting hammered with snow.

I've been in touch with them via e-mail. They'd asked it we - with the help of their other neighbor "Jack" who has a key - could bring in their front and back porch furniture. I'd promised to take care of it. I hadn't managed to get hold of Jack (and - it turns out - neither had they), so  when I woke up to just some light rain, I dressed and put on a rainjacket and went next door to move my neighbors' porch furniture to the safety of my garage.

Mr. Carolina took issue with this plan. It's not our problem, he argued. They shouldn't have left it out. They wouldn't want you doing this. Why can't you wait for "Jack" (their neighbor on the other side) to deal with this. Yeah yeah yeah. Mr. Carolina's perfectly able-bodied, a former hockey and football player. He could certainly help, but he preferred to give me grief for some reason. I was in no mood to argue, given the limited window of non-stormy weather. Out I went, and singlehandedly moved as much of the furniture I could carry across my yard and into my dehumidifier-equipped garage for safekeeping.

At 5'4" (before the diminishing effects of osteoporosis), I'm hardly stevedore material, but once I set my mind to doing something, I stick with it, often past the point of reason. As my former backpacking buddies would tell you, "she's a tough little b*tch." Despite my small size, I grew up backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter camping, and studying karate. I've taken First Aid and CPR and I'm trained to deal with hazardous materials. Moving a few pieces of porch furniture doesn't seem like a Herculean task to me.

With assistance, this task would have been a lot easier. But I wasn't getting any assistance this morning, and the skies were darkening. Mr. Carolina, still peeved, began moving some of the stuff into our back porch rather than our garage, adding more work for me to undo (in addition to moving our own porch furniture). On days like this, I know it's pointless to argue. He doesn't get it. He doesn't want to get it.

I was brought up to believe that it's our responsibility to help others. My parents demonstrated this through their actions. If we were young enough, strong enough, or skilled enough to provide assistance to those who needed it, we were to get off our asses and get to work. Don't wait for someone to ask. Offer to lend a hand. My very first diary on Daily Kos explained my philosophy with regards to altruism as a natural force in our animal and human world. Nothing's happened since then to change my outlook.

It's not simply a quid-pro-quo, returning the many kindnesses my wonderful neighbors have bestowed on us. They endured 10 months of construction on what had been a quiet wooded lot next door. We met them as our foundation was being built, and we've become good friends with them. If I can do anything to ease their mind while they're weaving their way home, dodging storms, why on Earth wouldn't I help out? It's a joy, an honor, really, to be able to help.

I didn't need the pushback and the argument from Mr. Carolina, who knows me well enough by now to know that he can crush my spirit by suggesting that I should feel shame for my poor judgment. In these moments, I reconnect with my dear departed dad, who would have done exactly this sort of thing, all the while listening to my mother barking at him that he'd have a heart attack or be struck by lighting. He'd be wounded by the angry remarks questioning his motives, his methods, and his sanity.

We always meant well, Dad and I, yet in these moments, we found ourselves visited by his bipolar mother's tendency to freefall from our heights of optimism and pride at a job well done into a melancholy that settles in our bones and stays for a while. After our fall, we spend our days lying low, our inner child sent to their room to think long and hard about how they messed up when of course they did nothing wrong at all. Such is the legacy of genetics, reinforced by decades and decades of behavior, facilitated by those unable or unwilling to accommodate our quirky limitations. It's the perfect storm, for a perfect stormy day.

Oh, and by the way... nobody's heard from Jack so far. He's a great guy, the salt of the earth. He's about 70 or maybe a little older. I hope he's okay. I'd sure hate to have had something happen to him in the course of hauling around this rain-soaked furniture, especially when I could deal with it myself. Maybe, just maybe, there was some greater reason why I was called to this task.


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