Winter sucks. There, I said it. Yes, I know, those lovely snowflakes look beautiful on Christmas morn’ but by Boxing Day I’m more than ready to welcome spring.
The only time I truly appreciate winter is when I watch Weather Channel reports of hurricanes or tsunamis or landslides off in some tropical part of the world. “Winter’s not so bad, I guess,” I mutter to myself as I pull on my long underwear.
Today, in a rare flash of unselfishness, I realized winter isn’t all about me. It’s a lot rougher on those who sleep, well, rough. So today, I went through my closet to find any coats that I know I will never wear again but keep around for a “rainy day” (or actually, a “snowy” day … you get the picture).
My plan is to drop them off at the St. Vincent De Paul Society, which holds a “winter coat drive” every year.
Reading the following story about a cub scout’s “good turn” (which are part of official “Scout Law,” apparently) inspired this idea:
Warm hearts on cold streets
In the deep freeze of a Canadian winter, one thing we often take for granted is our warm beds. Yet for so many people living on the streets of Toronto, this small comfort can be out of reach.
I used to wonder why one particular homeless man in my neighbourhood always seemed so cheerful, despite the hardships he must face every night in this unforgiving weather; so one day I decided to ask him.
“It’s because I have four sleeping bags that I use all at once,” he informed me. He felt he was lucky to have them. This made me realize that many others in his situation must not be so lucky to have even a sleeping bag to curl up in at night.
When I asked him if he knew anyone who needed a sleeping bag he nodded “yes” without hesitation. I decided this was an opportunity for my Cub Pack to help out a fellow human being.
When I told the children about this man and how people he knew had to sleep out in the cold, they reminded me of an old abandoned sleeping bag that had been left in the storage room after a winter camping trip. We all agreed it could be put to better use.
A few days later I brought the sleeping bag to the man. I wish I could have described the look on his face. Even though I had hinted I would bring one, he must have seen more than his share of disappointment in his life. His smile and surprised showed this small act of kindness meant a lot to him, even thought the gift was for someone else.
“I told my friend I might be able to get him a sleeping bag,” he beamed. I let him know it was courtesy of his local Cub Pack and that I hoped his friend would enjoy it.
A couple of weeks later, I found the man again in his usual place selling Outreach newspapers. He said hello and reached for a small note in his pocket. “This is from my friend,” he said. “Can you give it to the kids for me?” I opened the folded paper that read:
“To all the kids who gave me the sleeping bag, I want to thank you for your kindness. It will keep me warm these winter nights.”
I shared the note with the group at the next meeting. None of us had ever realized before how much happiness a small gesture could bring. A man we will probably never meet will have a better place to sleep, his friend is happy for him, but perhaps we were the happiest of all for knowing we could make a difference in a person’s life.
This experience has taught my group to be grateful for all they have, to treat others with compassion and how giving to warmth to others can be the best gift you give yourself.
And to all of you south of the border, my best wishes for a safe and very Happy Thanksgiving weekend!