NOt so much for me, but for a lot of people it's unusually cold. I think the temps dropped below freezing where I am, however, we got no snow, no ice. There was enough rain for the past few days that it could have made for some pretty treacherous driving conditions if it got colder.
I saw two stories on tonight's news that knocked me down, then picked me back up. When it gets really cold, there are always stories of space heaters starting a fire. A Kentucky mother and 8 of her 9 children perished in this kind of fire. Her husband and one child made it out but are in pretty bad condition. I hate space heaters. I hate that for some that's all the heat they have. My friend Mary, has an ancient (by my standards) space heater on the floor next to the TV watching chair in her bedroom. It scares me just to look at it. In order to warm up the bathroom before she showers, I have to move the heater from near the chair to near the toilet, turn it up high and close the door. I know what you're thinking. It makes me crazy too. Space heater + bathroom (water) = what the hell are you doing? Like it was an old friend, Mary told me on Monday that the heater has given her a lot of warm nights. Still, I worry. Before he died, Dad owned 3 fake fireplaces. Supposedly the boxes were made by the Amish. Those suckers put out a good amount of heat. I don't think it would fit into Mary's room.
Then there were stories of neighbor helping neighbor in Atlanta. When the government couldn't help, people jumped into action and started making a difference. I couldn't help but think, maybe that's the solution to some of our problems in this country. We could get back to knowing our neighbors and lending a hand when someone needed it. I thought that as I headed out the door to deliver some things to a gentleman I saw on the side of the road last night.
I don't live in a part of town where there are a lot of homeless people. But I've noticed this gent before, always in the same spot. It's near the freeway and two gas stations. I don't know if he spends all day there, or just the nights. Last night it was really, really cold, and that frigid drizzle just kept coming. I saw the man hunched under what I hope was a blanket at the underpass. Well, I came home and told Sweetie, I needed to do something. I wanted to go back after collecting some things and making a pot of coffee. Turns out I didn't have the right kind of stuff. I went today to stock up. I made turkey soup. I piled it all in a waterproof bag. It has stopped raining and the temperature is supposed to go back up over the weekend. Most of the stuff in the bag would be pointless by Saturday.
But that didn't matter, cause I was on a mission of kindness. As the sun set and the cold increased, Sweetie, Suzi Q and I headed out with our gifts. We made one pass and didn't see the man. Then Sweetie parked at the gas station and walked the block or so to see if the man was there or not. As Sweetie walked down the sidewalk, I had to say a little prayer of gratitude for him. He listens to my concerns, nods his head, then bundles himself up to participate. The sad part of this story is that once found the homeless man didn't really want to be helped. At everything that Sweetie offered, all the man could do was shake his head and say no, no, no. So we left, pack of winter supplies in hand.
I can't imagine what it's like to be homeless. Or to be so afraid of kindness (my interpretation, maybe he was afraid of nothing, just didn't want to be bothered) that you say no to all prospects of help. Over the holidays Josh Urban started a Kindness Exchange where people shared their kindness stories and Josh filled an outside tree with stars and lights signifying all the kindness taking place. I think it's pretty easy to be kind to others during the month of December. Even with all the commercial falderall, people still want to believe in the Christmas message. Come the end of January, being kind gets swept up (and out) with new year's resolutions and old tinsel. The point of the Kindness Exchange (someone correct me if I'm wrong) is to continue being kind. Not to get your name on a tree, or star on the refrigerator, or present from St. Nick, but to be kind just for the sake of being kind. Because what the world needs now i "love sweet love."
Confession time: I think I wanted to look in the homeless man's eyes and see gratitude. Shame on me. Maybe, the message in this "look what I did tale" is that sometimes, kindness is in the offering, not just the action. I'd like to think that man had a tiny little spot in his heart that was glad for the thought. That our offerings, though rejected, made him feel a little less alone for a few minutes.
I'm going to stowhe bag of hand/foot warmers, a blanket, a thermos, a towel in the back of the car for the next time I see someone in need. I'm not going to stop offering kindness. But but maybe I'll be less excited about it. I think that will happen when being kind becomes second nature to us all, not a surprise random act, when stranded motorists help others even if there isn't a storm.
Maybe the world needs more Pete Seegers who will write and sing rallying songs, to get us away from cyberspace and back to a more personal way of living.
Hope you are staying warm,
(Disclaimer: I'm not against technology. Hell I barely know how to use all the stuff that's out there. How can I be against it if I don't know what it is or what it does. I'm sure cell phones, tablets and maybe even computer watches played a big part in getting help to those in need over the past weeks. I'm just saying, a piece of equipment from the Apple Store is kind of like a sex toy from Guys & Dolls Adult Emporium. I believe we all need more human contact, not less.)