When I’m warm and it’s cold outside, I sometimes think of those who have no homes, who must really be cold right now. I think of them. I feel sad for them. I move about my business.
Now I’m cold, and all I can do is think of them. And, all things considered, it really isn’t even *that* cold yet, though try telling that to my fingers which are having trouble typing even now, or to my head, which isn’t content unless my knitted cap is securely in place (it’s been there since 1:00 yesterday afternoon, save for two hours today when I worked the bookstore – it was warm in there).
I think of these folks because they aren’t just cold like we are; they are cold and displaced. No beds, no bundles of warm blankets, no borrowed space heater to heat the area right in front of where their kids aren’t watching Charlie Brown on TV right now like mine are.
I threw a bona-fide fit today. I’m not happy about that, but there you have it. Mr. Radiator came in and, in the course of 10 minutes, told me that what was going to be a simple “let’s get this thing started” turned into a “well, I’m going to have to wah wah wah wah wah wah $700 wah wah wah wah.” I called Craig out of class. He okayed whatever it is Mr. Radiator said he had to do and, I’m not joking, 10 minutes later, he came up with another round of wah wah wah wah wah $7,000 wah wah wah (can you tell I’m listening to Charlie Brown right now?).
That’s when I turned into waaa waaa waaa. I called Craig out of class again. We told Mr. Radiator thanks for coming, but we can’t do that right now. He smiled and handed me a bill for $98. I didn’t handle that well. I looked at him and said, “What, are you kidding me?” He said, “No.” I said, “Seriously? $98 for doing nothing?” He said, “Wah wah wah wah wah wah.” I wrote him a check for $98. I kind of tossed it at him and glared him right out of my house. I’m usually a little more polite, but I’ve had it with repair guys trying to take advantage of me. I’m done with that.
So he left, and my mature, let’s-set-a-good-example-for-the-children response was to scream. And I’m not talking a little, “Eeeeek! A mouse!” scream, but, the kind of scream you’d expect from any self-respecting two-year old who ate half a lollipop and had the remainder taken away. That kind of scream.
I cried so much I’m really tired right now. Really tired. And yet, what am I so depressed about? It’s less about the cold and more about the control – we had a good, strong plan to pay off some accumulated debt this year that, before today, we were on track to pay off in May. If we have to buy a new boiler (and we simply do), we’ll pay things off later than May, but it’s out of my control and that’s scary to me.
What I fail to remember is that we’re indoors where the wind can’t get to us. We have electricity, which allows for us to snuggle underneath electric blankets. We have friends who practically force us to come to their homes during the day so we can stay warm. We’re protected. And we have the ability to come up with a plan. It’s not plan A, but it’s still in the play book and we’ll make it work.
So many people this winter don’t even have a play book. And I can only imagine the despair they feel. When you are cold (even only 50 degrees cold) all you can think about is meeting your basic need. It’s hard to think about doing anything else. Eating, maybe, but school? Not so much; the girls’ fingers are too cold. I can’t imagine having no place to live and being this cold and even colder for the entire winter with no hope in sight, no plan on the horizon at all. When your basic needs aren’t met, despair comes quickly to fill that gap.
We’ll have heat sometime soon. I wonder how long it will take me to forget about all those who don’t?