Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Warmth of a Winter Chill

There are times when I'm prepared to cancel a run, but my inner voice tells me to lace up the shoes and get out the door. I've never regretted listening to that inner voice, but rarely have I been as greatly rewarded as I was this morning....

There was a gentle calm about the city as it lay beneath the silent shroud of fresh snow. The trees reached out, as though in thanks, towards the gray slate sky, an airplane invisibly scraping at the clouds from the other side. All the different houses found a common hue beneath their soft white roofs, with an occasional chimney calling attention to the scent of a winter fire warming the inside of its house, making it a home. A 'hello' from an unexpected passerby with a familiar face reminded me that I too was home.

And it made me think of those who were not.

A crowd of men and women, huddled beneath the awning of an old single story warehouse on Twenty-Seventh Avenue, called out the goodness of the morning to me, and with the strength of their humility gave the thought its cause. I stopped and they welcomed me, sharing with me the warmth of their being; everything they possess and perhaps more than many.

They wondered aloud at the world and its course, and openly offered the bread of their experience through a reminiscence of what has been. They quenched the thirst of the conversation with a lesson they've earned and carried with them into each day.

They were a mixture of races, genders, and nationalities, and varied just as much in terms of the shades of pride they have, of necessity, left behind and of the very pride they have, of necessity, retained; the former to accept their course, and the latter to protect their dignity.

They offered thoughts and advice on keeping the warmth of the body, as they wordlessly illustrated how to retain the warmth of heart and soul. And as I left them huddled beneath their blankets in the gentle winter morning, they blanketed me with blessings to take along.

As I continued on my run, I wondered at my own struggles in life and pondered times when my own house felt like anything but home, and times when I felt more as though I had a home when I had none. Then I thought of times when I have indeed been blessed with the paradox of being a stranger among friends and, as I was today, a friend amidst complete strangers.

More than ever, I was relieved at having abandoned the temptation to cancel the morning run. I was rewarded by being welcomed into the home of the homeless and was given gifts that were meant to be shared.

It was on my heart to share these blessings and gifts with you this evening, lest I leave the call unanswered and fail to share the warmth with someone who might well be feeling a sad or lonely chill in a moment or more of life's winter season.

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