Out of the Cold…

A few years ago during the holidays, while heading to a lovely restaurant with friends, a man stepped from a downtown doorway and asked if we could “spare some change.”

We made eye contact then he quickly stepped out of sight but not before the shock hit me as I recognized my old schoolmate. The intelligent, handsome, young man I remembered from High School…not in my class as he was one of the “gifted” among us…”The Brains” we’d called them. He was a character, funny, athletic, popular… I remembered him well.

I turned back, opened my wallet and pulled out the only bill I had then placed it in his hand as he said a quiet “thank you Colleen”…and I wished him well.

Later, I discovered why he was homeless. How his life had fallen to an unfortunate chain of events and the mental illness that brought him to the streets. I was proud to hear that another friend who works at a local hotel, meets with him from time to time to share a hot meal in his office.

We don’t know the stories behind the people we see on the streets but every single one of them has a tale of heartache, desperation and pain.

This week, my classmates and I worked on various pieces for a fundraiser we’re hosting for “Out of the Cold.” The community-based, volunteer-run, emergency winter shelter is located at Saint Matthews Church on Barrington Street. It is open to men, women, transgendered, couples, youth and even folks with pets! Out of the Cold aims to provide a “safe accommodation to homeless and street-involved people throughout the cold winter months.”

It’s the holidays. Folks are cold and hungry out there. There are people in need and many of us are in a position to offer a helping hand.

I admit, before I saw my old classmate on the street, I was quick to walk away…claim I had no change or go so far as be offended by the the fact I was approached. However, it’s not up to us to judge. Everyone has a story and some are more heartbreaking than others. Every person out there is someone’s old schoolmate, someone’s brother or sister, son or daughter, mom or dad.

I challenge you to pick an organization to help this holiday season. Spend some time with a friend who may be alone and in need of a cup of tea and a bit of conversation. Volunteer at the local food bank or shelter. Make a meal for a family who’s busy visiting their loved one in the hospital. There are many, many people who need our help and while, for many of us, the holidays are a joyous time…for others there is a great amount of suffering.

Offer a helping hand. It truly is the giving that will bring you the greatest joy.

The students at NSCC will be selling various pieces of Art on Thursday, December 6th from 11 to 1 at the Waterfront Campus. Pieces will range from $10 to $35 with all proceeds going to “Out of the Cold.” Drop by, say hello and pick up a piece of art while helping someone in need.

Visit Out of the Cold’s website for more information, or to make a donation.

2 Replies to “Out of the Cold…”

  1. I have taken the time more than once to stop and ask the person’s name and if they would mind sharing their story. Two in particular stand out. One woman has epilepsy and cannot work or drive. Another man struggles with terrible physical pain in his leg and yet he still offers a grateful smile and well wishes when I see him. I give what a can each time I see them. I know that many of us are only a few tragic events away from the streets ourselves.