I’ve spent almost all my 38 years in Texas or Louisiana, so I’ve weathered some bad summers. The summer of 2011, however, has re-defined “bad summer.” In our area, the last time we had this many 100+ days was in 1980-something. As of August 16, we’d had 42 total 100+ days, 18 of which were consecutive. Texas has had the second driest July on record and has had five straight months in which average precipitation ranked in the bottom ten driest. Even the swimming pool has a big sign out front warning pregnant women and people with heart conditions that the water temperature is dangerous.
In short, it is miserably hot and dry. It actually looks somewhat like fall because so many trees are dead and losing their leaves.
Needless to say, I’ve done a good bit of complaining.
Last week, I stopped by the oil change joint because my car battery was on the fritz. They changed it in less than ten minutes and I was on my way. The mechanics looked miserable in their jeans and dark, long-sleeved work shirts. I made a dumb joke with one of them, something like, “So do they pay you extra when it’s so hot outside?” He laughed and said “no.” I got into the car and commented to the kids that I felt sorry for all those guys for having to work outside in these conditions.
And then the light bulb went off in my head: rather than complaining and grousing, we should take cold drinks to people who are working outside! I told the kids and they looked at me like I was crazy and rolled their eyes. They didn’t think I was serious.
On Tuesday, Kennedy and I went to the store and bought a whole bunch of drinks–water, Gatorade, Country Time lemonade, Coke, and Dr. Pepper–and ice. We cooled all the drinks on Tuesday night and on Wednesday, we loaded up the coolers and what the kids ended up dubbing the “2011 OB Drink Give-away” (OB = Olson Beal) was underway.
Our first stop was the drive-thru dry cleaning place where the people come out to your car to pick up and drop off your stuff. We pulled in and asked the employee (who knows us by name) whether she’d like a cold drink. She looked at us strangely and one of the kids opened the van to show her the coolers. She said, “Are you guys serious?” We told her we were serious, so she called the other employees out and asked them if they wanted a drink. One of them mumbled, “Is it free?” They all grabbed a drink and smiled and thanked us profusely. The kids closed the door to the van and excitedly said, “Hey, that was fun!”
On our way out of the parking lot, we stopped and asked a UPS driver whether he wanted a drink. He also smiled and took us up on a cold Gatorade.
Then we headed out to a neighborhood where we knew a lot of construction work is underway. We stopped at 3-4 houses and handed out drinks to Hispanics who were painting, framing, and even roofing (cringe – can you imagine being on a roof in this heat?). They were suspicious at first, but gladly took the drinks once we explained what we were doing. One man asked whether we were with a church. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Nope. Just our family.” We gave out lots of drinks to people who were doing lawn work as well.
We stopped back at the oil change place where the idea was hatched and gave out some drinks. In the end, we ended up with five Cokes that no one wanted! If we do this again, we’ll buy more Gatorades and waters and fewer cokes. After we finished up and headed home, the kids said we should make this a family tradition.
Tonight at bedtime, Marin offered to say the prayer and said, “We’re thankful that we were able to go out as a family and give out drinks to . . . people who looked like they were hot.” Later in her prayer, she added, “And please help us so we can maybe have some better weather. And maybe even some rain.”