I love the snow. I put on my first skis at the age of 4 and have spent most of my life as an avid downhill skier. I grew up figure skating on frozen ponds in our neighborhood and building snow forts on the front lawn. This usually happened after school, though. We didn’t get snow days very often in Massachusetts when I was in elementary school. I chuckled a bit as I listened to lists of schools being cancelled around Chicago this week prior to a single snowflake actually hitting the ground!
On Tuesday, I enjoyed the gorgeous view we have at St. Joseph Hospital looking out to the east over the frozen lake and the snow-covered park. It was absolutely beautiful to watch big flakes fall on the trees from inside the warm building. I am fortunate that I do not have to shovel or drive much in the winter. Walking to both the hospital and the church makes my commute pretty simple no matter the weather, so yes, it is easy for me to say that I love snow.
Tuesday I also had a gnawing feeling in my gut, though. I was very aware all day that I would be closing up the church after Dignity Diner and a community movie. Breaking News announcements of more snow continued to flash on TV screens throughout day, and FB post after FB post announced how people were spending their day off of school or work because of the storm. While grateful that Holy Covenant has the resources to keep people warm, safe and fed for a few hours on Tuesdays, I was dreading sending people back out onto the streets in the dark and snow. If there was too much snow for working folks to move around the city, how could I ask our guests to spend the night out on the streets?
Once again, I am inspired by human resilience. I cannot speak for every guest, but those I chatted with had mostly come up with a plan to get to a warming shelter, a hotel room, the apartment of a friend of a friend of a friend…A few people spoke of buying extra coffees during the day to justify spending extra hours in local cafes. Almost everyone left calmly at the end of the night without too much obvious distress.
Snow is one of so many things in life that are both miraculous and painful, joyous and risky, bitter and sweet. And, of course, snow is easier to handle when people work together to manage it. Part of the gift of Tuesday nights at HCUMC is the community that is built and shared there. Part of what eased my dread of closing up tonight was sharing the task with Emma Crossen. Thanks be to God that we are not on this journey alone. We can share both sides of life with one another- the stuff we love, and the stuff we don’t. No one should have to shovel the path alone!
Rev. Polly Toner