The Community in Winter

Reader Contribution by Kyle Ferlemann
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Photo by Garda de Sus

When a community is engaged and active it is easier to help keep families from falling into household disaster situations brought on by the seasonal conditions. The role of the community in winter is to share and ensure that people have enough of what they need to make it through the winter. As members of an active community we can share hope in the form of an attentive ear, a watchful eye, a compassionate voice, and an empathetic heart. The idea is that we can share the bounty of the Earth long after the growing season is over and within a strong community, people take care of their own.

Overlooked Disasters

Disasters are not always major events. Not all disasters affect whole communities. Even if there is no county or state level disaster declaration where you live this winter, families near you will be affected by disaster conditions. It may involve loss of power or heating in their homes. It could be the lack of warm clothing and proper winter shoes. It could also be that families that depend upon seasonal trade work to make their living will suffer an unexpected financial set back that drains their savings. These situations are not about a lack of discretionary funds. These disasters are about having to make choices about food, heat, and other basic needs for quality of life; or worst yet, not having choices or the resources that provide options.

In disaster preparedness it is recommended that you have a winter emergency kit in your car in case you are separated from heat and care so that you can survive until you are rescued. Now imagine if this was the situation in a home and there was no rescue. The community aspect of awareness and preparedness includes watching out for our neighbor’s welfare as much as our own. Within the community we can take action to make sure that no friend, family, child, or animal goes hungry and cold when it is within our ability to assist.  

It can be argued that it is not the role of the federal, state, or local government to see to our neighbor’s needs. I say this for several reasons. First is that the government has a poor record of recognizing need until situations become critical. Secondly; friends, neighbors, and congregations are in a much better situation to recognize these needs well before a situation becomes a household disaster. Third, and perhaps most importantly, government subsidies do not strengthen communities.  

Strength in Community

A strong and active community, group, or congregation can stay in touch through the winter and support each other through winter social activities and gatherings. In this way a family can avoid a potential disaster situation altogether. Here are some ideas that were normal and expected 100 years ago, and can be just as effective today.

  • Trading, swapping, and gifting food stuffs. Variety is the spice of life, and I can personally attest to the fact that variety is event tastier along about midwinter. When sharing and gifting is common, a little extra where it is needed will not be a big deal.
  • Visitations are important for folks that can’t get out in the winter due to physical mobility issues or transportation limitations. This is especially true in areas where winter snows last through the season or can separate folks for even a few weeks at a time. If bread is the staff of life, then fellowship and conversation is food for the soul.
  • Offer winter work to those who have the time “out of the regular season” to do some extra projects. I’ve never known a house carpenter to pass on small inside projects in the winter. This is not charity; it is well placed honest work. Winter is a great time to get projects done that have not been checked off the “to do” list during the fall. Chances are good that there just may be some willing hands eager for the opportunity to earn some money.
  • Gatherings, weekly if possible but not less than monthly, will give people an opportunity to meet and greet their neighbors. This opportunity to share news and fellowship can be a life line that keeps families and individuals from falling, unseen and unknown, into a household disaster. It’s not about “checking up” on people, it’s about caring about them and acting upon that friendship to do those little things that keep families within our communities strong.

These suggestions are not just for winter but they are especially important in the winter months. A community can benefit from communication and fellowship all year round.  Cultivating a habit of regular active participation within a community is an important part of keeping homes and individuals from falling into a disaster situation. 

How do you stay active in your community in the winter months? Post your experiences in the comments section below.

For more details on practical preparedness check out – Disaster Response SMARTBook 3 – Disaster Preparedness, 2nd Edition. His latest book, Practical Preparedness, was published in June 2020 and is available in our online Grit Store.

Kyle is also a speaker for the Mother Earth News Fair Online. Learn more and register to see his workshop video today.

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