The Portland Press Herald had an article on February 18th that said there is more ice in the harbor than there’s been in 35 years. We’re also about a foot ahead of the snow total average for the entire season and we have over a month to go before winter begins to loosen her grip.
This kind of winter makes one even more thankful for the blessings of a warm house to hunker down in, and also makes one more acutely aware of the dangers facing those who are homeless. We have had many, many requests for boots, for coats, for hats and gloves – all the things that it make it possible to be out on a Maine winter day without risking hypothermia, frostbite or worse. So imagine my surprise last week when I went to Walmart to fill a cart with winter clothes and discovered instead rack upon rack of t-shirts and bathing suits. I’d forgotten that the acute needs of those who so often go without don’t really affect the seasonal rotation of a large national retailer. Just another example of how different reality is for those who are living on the margins.
But on the bright side – and there is always a bright side – the generosity of churches, of individuals, of businesses like the Portland Gear Hub have allowed us to continue to help with the small things that bring comfort during the most challenging season of the year.
And even though our street corner cathedral is buried in snow and ice, we’ve found other places to pray – sometimes in the courtyard outside the day shelter, and sometimes in the warmth and chaos of the soup kitchen. There is an extra potency to these small moments of the sacred when the world outside turns stark and cold and uninviting. It is these moments – more than the boots and the gloves and the hats – that make our work of some value. Holding hands in a circle with people struggling to survive, while an angry patron whacks the coffee urn in frustration, and we raise our eyes and our voices up to the divine in the midst of the sturm und drang of another day on the street – this is a snapshot moment that, for all its brevity, is nothing short of miraculous.
So here’s to another season of snow, of ice, of cold and of the remarkable capacity of the human spirit to rise above the challenges of the day-to-day and bathe in the pure light of love, in the pure light of God.