Frozen Pipes

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Next to snow plough drivers, probably the busiest people in town during the latest winter storm were plumbers. A big concern with the deep freeze were frozen pipes. Some people caught the problem before they burst, others were not so lucky.

There are at least two remedies to ward off future frozen pipes: add insulation or pipe heaters, or let the water drip during the coldest days to keep it from freezing.

Cold air isn’t the only enemy to our warmth and happiness. Coldness from other people is something that can “freeze” us anytime of the year. When others stop talking with us or turn their backs on us (we sometimes call it “giving us the cold shoulder”), it can immobilize us because of the distress we experience. It’s bad enough when we experience a chilling lack of care from service providers, but very upsetting when we’re frozen by our friends or families.

So let me suggest that the remedies for frozen pipes might also apply to freezing relationships. Add insulation. When we surround pipes with insulation, the cold can’t get through. When we surround ourselves with the people who do care for us, it is insulation against the “haters.” And this insight can motivate us to reach out to other people who are struggling with cold relationships in their lives. Think of ways to add some warmth and joy to their daily lives. Share a meal. Send a thoughtful tweet. Make a phone call where you listen more than talk. Figure out how to add a little loving insulation against the coldness in their life.

Notice that the task is to insulate and warm, not rescue. Just as we can’t stop a cold front from invading Long Island, we can’t stop another person’s cold relationship from affecting someone we care about. But we can offer insulation and warmth.

The second way to keep pipes from freezing solid is to let the water drip a bit. In other words, keep it moving. This is a good strategy for frozen relationships too: keep moving. People often feel so hurt and angry about the way they are ignored or disrespected by others, that they emotionally shut down and experience a time of depression. It’s hard to get out of bed and hard to function in other relationships. We tell ourselves to “snap out of this”, but as with frozen pipes, snapping isn’t really a good strategy!

The slow drip process involves doing just a little bit to keep moving each day. Plan one act each day that keep you from letting depression immobilize you. Such acts can include: doing a kind act for someone else, taking a walk (if it’s too cold outside, go walk in a mall), make a visit to church to say a prayer, clean up your junk drawer, etc.

People on social media have posted their frozen pipe adventures to get either sympathy or advice. While it’s not advisable to advertise our relational troubles on Facebook, it is a good strategy to confide in some close friends and relatives to that we’re having a problem with depression and that we’re looking to “drip” our way out of this frozen state. Our friends and family can be that source of warmth and insulation that get us beyond our hurts and angers. And never underestimate that a relationship with God can help warm and heal what freezes us.

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Pastor of St. Bernard's since 2013 and known for his engaging homilies and community presence, Father Ralph Sommer is also a treasured columnist for the Levittown Tribune.

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