OPINION | STEVE STRAESSLE: July rain


Little Rock is a fickle weather town these days. The temperatures shudder between oven-like and pleasant, and it's one of the things I like best about our city. Things change. Like today.

It's July and a thunderstorm is moving through Little Rock as I type. All Southerners know there's something special about July rain. I'm listening to it hit the roof of the carport/apartment behind my house, a sound I can hear clearly because the moisture falling from above has cooled the air, and the air conditioning window unit has shut off.

It's enjoyable because July rain is as much a welcome surprise as having a neighbor drop some vine-ripe tomatoes and cucumbers on the porch.

Summer storms carry incredible power and can possess deep meaning. When tattletale clouds form in the west and the smell of trees opening their pores to moisture rises, we know we're on to something good, something transformative.

Then the storm arrives and we have the choice to embrace it or to cower--to lap the cool, fresh air it brings or to bury ourselves in the insulation of our homes.

Such is life.

Humanity seems to rise and fall like those thunder clouds. Every single interaction has impact; every small brush with another person an opportunity to embrace possibilities or cower within ourselves.

I often think about a run I took right after a July storm several years ago. I was heading west near Cantrell Road, right by Episcopal Collegiate School. The air was still cool after the storm and the wet sidewalks had soaked my socks.

I plodded under the bridge and up the path next to the old Riverside Marine building. Ahead, I could make out a disheveled man standing in the middle of the road.

He was homeless; that was obvious. His tattered overalls sagged. He raised his sunburned face to the sky, seeming to appreciate the clouds. Then, he bent over in the street.

I couldn't see what he was after. Probably a dropped quarter or some other bauble.

Maybe it was his nasty backpack or a cigarette butt he'd let dry and save for later. I quickly judged this guy, instantly making him a caricature.

Finally, I got close enough.

He was washing his hands in a large puddle.

I ran beside him and looked into the wet oval reflection to see his tired face concentrating as he massaged dirt from his fingernails and made his hands clean. He rubbed water on his face and smiled.

As I passed, I turned to see him raise his arms to the sky. Maybe he was offering silent thanks. Maybe he was lifting what was left of his life upward.

I felt the weight of regret.

It was a humbling reminder that July rain is such a welcome event because it is almost always unexpected and revealing. It allows us to be surprised, to reset perspective.

It reminds us, like the man in the road with outstretched arms, to recognize power unseen.


Steve Straessle is the principal of Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys. You can reach him at sstraessle@lrchs.org. Find him on Twitter @steve_straessle. "Oh, Little Rock" appears every other Monday.


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