"Be Prepared," the Boy Scout motto, comes to mind as we reflect on Hurricane Sandy, which spared the North Country - contrary to predictions - but did horrendous damage to much of the East Coast.
"Be prepared for what?" someone once asked Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting's founder, according to a common story.
"Why, for any old thing," he is said to have replied.
The point of this two-line tale is that it isn't enough to prepare for particular events that one knows will or might happen, like a "Frankenstorm."
Baden-Powell went by the initials "B-P," a knowing echo of "Be Prepared." In "Scouting for Boys," he wrote that the motto "means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.
"Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
"Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it."
Of course, no one can actually have "thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur"; the possibilities are too many. Therefore, it comes down to being in a general state of readiness for "any old thing" - to know and be willing and able to do "the right thing at the right moment."
People here prepared for days ahead of Hurricane Sandy, carefully watching weather forecasts, rescheduling activities and creating a boom at local stores as they stocked up on supplies. For the most part, those supplies weren't needed - this time - but it's good to have them laid away for the next time a storm actually does roar through. And the next time may not be far off. We are now in a more general state of readiness, which is good.
We're not urging anyone to take preparedness to a "doomsday" or survivalist level. Readiness should alleviate fear, not increase it the way paranoia and obsessive-compulsiveness do. You can't control everything, or even most things, but if you keep your mind, body, spirit and household generally ready, you should be able to do the right thing at the right moment.
Even if nothing happens for a while, a healthy state of being prepared will pay dividends - like, for instance, putting you in a better position to help others.
This week, some people here were able to quickly turn and use their readiness to help others in need. The Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake volunteer fire departments, along with other North Country squads, each sent two members and a fully loaded truck down to Long Island to help communities fight fires, pump out basements, salvage property and do whatever else is needed. Sturdy Supply generously loaned the Saranac Lake team four pumps and a portable generator for the task.
These people are representing us in a wonderful way. When people downstate see them helping, they'll see "Tupper Lake" and "Saranac Lake" on their trucks and clothing, and they'll remember. This service is a source of great pride.