Shivering with (temporary) cold

After a hot meal, a large hot coffee, and a ride in a car with the heat turned up, I was starting to unthaw.  Sitting here now on a comfortable bed under several warm blankets, wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt, I’m finally feeling warm.  How did I get so cold?

Well, according to Darrel, a gentleman I met tonight, it’s because no women are warm-blooded.  Personally speaking, I’d have to say he’s right.  I admit it – I’m a cold wimp.  But even beyond being a cold-blooded cold-wimp, what really got me so chilled was spending 90 minutes outside at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland.  Hope PDX, a church for our friends without homes, was having an outreach tonight, and several of us went down to observe and participate.

I was honored to stand among the outskirts of  this loving outreach that treated individuals as God intended – as people made in the image of God Himself.  I wish I could adequately convey the love and warmth showed by both givers and receivers at this small scale event.  Hand warmers, burritos, socks, knit stocking caps, soda and gloves were lovingly shared with whomever needed them.  If an individual didn’t need or want a particular item, they were given one to share with someone who did, but wasn’t there.  Hugs and laughter were exchanged.  Stories shared.  Encouragement given.

Darrel and Melvin told stories about serving in the Marines and Army.  Another older gentleman gave his burrito away to a young girl who came after  all the burritos had been distributed, after hearing she was pregnant.  Divisions between giver and receiver, poor and needy, with or without homes, were temporarily blurred, and as an outsider looking in, I wasn’t sure who was who.  And I thought, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Am I somehow better just because I happen to live in a home?  Am I more deserving, and that individual less so?  Hardly.  And for a few brief moments, I could almost imagine such ridiculous notions falling away.

But then as the minutes passed, the temperature kept dropping.  My toes were numb and my hips ached.  Eventually, we left Pioneer Square and returned to our warm shelters, out of the cold, damp, winter weather.  And as much as I now enjoy the warmth and comfort of blankets, pillows, warm clothes, and shelter, I shiver and shudder to think about all of those friends I met tonight.  They’re outside tonight sleeping on cold sidewalks.  They didn’t get to come in out of the cold.  They couldn’t buy a cup of hot coffee.  They may not have warm blankets to huddle under.  And they haven’t been outside for just 90 minutes like I was, they’ve been out there all day, all week, all month, all year.

Politics, finger-pointing, blaming and rationalizing aside, I hope there isn’t any one of us who can truly not be concerned and compassionate about people living in such conditions.   These individuals – teens, pregnant women, dads, grandmothers, nieces, brothers, moms, veterans, employees – are all children of God.  They are all made in the image of God.  Have they made mistakes?  Before you answer too quickly….haven’t you made many of those same mistakes?