Monday, December 15, 2008

Baby! It's cold outside!

I've always believed society is defined by how we deal with our weakest links. The best of America is when we take care of the less fortunate. Peter Samuelson
Winter has blown in with a howl of frigid Arctic air swooping down from the north. Traffic crawls along snow covered roadways, inch by inch. Crunching tires. Spinning wheels. Baby, it's cold outside.

Tucked inside my office, peering out at the snow-laden trees and covered sidewalks, I don't care what the weather's doing outside! I'm cosy in my office. If it weren't for the fact I have a meeting later this afternoon outside the office, I might not venture forth at all today! I have the option to stay put, hunker down and take care of business in my office. I have the choice of what to do with my day.

The option of what to do is not filled with appealing alternatives for the 1200+ people who crowd into the building, seeking respite from the biting winds of a prairie winter. Their options are limited. They can wander the streets to get a break from the crowds huddled into the shelter and risk freezing a finger, a toe, their nose or ears, or they can sit amidst the sea of humanity trying to ignore the constant ebb and flow of conversation, the noise and hum of over a thousand people trying to get by in the depths of winter.

On Friday night we had our annual Christmas staff party. Lots of people didn't make it. The weather blew in and blew out any hope of some people finding their way through the blowing snow to the hall where the party was held. Others had to work. We're 24/7. Some people had to heed the call of duty and could not put in an appearance.

For those who did make it, the festivities were a welcome respite to an arduous year of ending homelessness, one person at a time. At one point, the President of our Board of Directors got up to give a speech. "Until I got the stats this week, I didn't realize we were in line with McDonald's," he said. "We served over one million meals this year."

That's a lot of meals. A lot of people looking for a link back to the homes they lost. A lot of bellies to fill with hope of getting a next meal and a next.

See, that's the thing about homelessness. We must care for 'our weakest links' if we are to keep hope alive in a land of plenty for those who have lost everything, including hope. We must hold out hope to those who have lost their way so that they can find their way back to where they belong.

It's cold outside. Inside, I am warm. And I am filled with hope. Winter's chill will ease into warmer climes. Spring blossoms will appear with the promise of spring. In the meantime, we might even enjoy a white Christmas. A welcome respite from the normal brown and grey tones of the past few years.

No matter the weather, no matter the times, here at the DI, hope lives on. It lives in the minds and hearts of all who care for the weakest links in their families. Who shore up the crumbling walls of someone they love. Who deliver a steaming bowl of soup to someone who has nothing but the clothes on their back and a dream of someday finding their way back home.

Hope lives on as long as we care enough to reach out for those who have reached the end of the road and don't know where to turn to next. Hope endures when we link our arms and stand together to protect and serve those who cannot stand alone any longer.

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