Winter Arrives Early

As I sit here writing, I realize that the temperature today, this Tuesday in November is supposed to slam down into the teens with a chill factor below 10 degrees. I remember what it was like to be homeless in weather like this and my heart goes out to my brothers and sisters on the street.

These are extremely dangerous times for people with no safe place to go. I remember selling Spare Change News on the corner of Mass Ave. and Temple Street on a day that was blistering cold with a powerful wind blowing. One of my customers said, “Marc, what’s wrong with your nose?’

I reached up and touched it, covering my fingers with blood. My nose felt like it was twice the size that it normally was. I thanked her and went into the 1369 Coffee House just down the block and went to the restroom. When I looked into the mirror, I was shocked to see the condition of my nose. It seemed like blood vessels had burst and my nose was swollen.

This is how I learned what frostbite really was. I decided to have a cup of coffee and pack it in for the day. But I still had to bicycle to North Station to catch the commuter rail back to Gloucester where I was living in a drug recovery center.

It frightened me how quickly that damage happened to my nose. I gained first- hand experience of how dangerous frigid conditions can be. When I rode my bicycle to the train station, I covered my face with a scarf, but I was still nervous about my nose.

Luckily, because of my customer’s timely call, I avoided even more extreme damage. But it was a really close call. After that, when I sold the paper in frigid conditions, I always covered my lower face with a scarf. I was fortunate that I had really good boots to protect my feet.

I’m talking about this because it appears that this winter could be a real threat to people living on the streets. It’s true that there are shelters that take people in, but in extreme cold like this, damage can be done to someone before they realize it. The Thanksgiving holiday season is very close and will be upon us as this paper hits the streets.

Please, good people, remember those who are not as fortunate as you who are comfortably housed. Be generous and watchful at the same time. If you see someone who appears to be in danger because of the cold, talk to them and give them a wellness check.

In other words, let them know you are concerned and ask if there is anyone, a shelter or a street worker, that they can call to give them assistance. You may run into someone who doesn’t want any help and be cognizant that they have the right to refuse. However, if you feel that they are in danger for their life, you must choose your actions thoughtfully.

During the Thanksgiving season and the holidays that follow, many people volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters. Please don’t forget, that when the holidays are over, the people who are still on the streets in January and February. Much of the help given during the holiday season dries up quickly when the holidays end, but the need for this post-holiday help is greater than ever.

Please have compassion for those people who are struggling to survive and know that, for them and yourself, every day is as important as the Thanksgiving holiday. Give freely and without judgement.  Remember, the person you see is someone’s son or daughter, possibly someone’s father or mother, and one never knows what it was that caused them to be cast out on the street.

For example, look at the people who are losing their homes to the Climate Emergency. Tomorrow it could be you or me out on the streets without a safe place to call home.

True compassion is the greatest gift that you are capable of giving.  Now is the time to be generous with the gifts you are fortunate to be blessed with. This is true not only during the holiday season. We are responsible for the less fortunate now and every moment of every day both pre- and post-holiday. Some small act of love can change someone’s life, or possibly save it. You can make their future possible by extending your caring hand.  

Celebrate each day with the knowledge of the present. The present is the gift of compassionate giving. Peace and love to all of you and thank you.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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