At exactly 4:29 this morning, I found myself sitting bolt upright in bed, awakened, as it turned out, by the wind playing havoc with the metal roof. I had momentarily thought someone in a frenzy was knocking on my front screen door. It was snowing lightly when I finally hauled my tired carcass out of bed around 5:40.
Winter has arrived in New England – and elsewhere – with a vengeance. No measurable snow here, just cold and wind and nothing fun to make up for it. It was 23 degrees Fahrenheit at 6:30 this morning, wind chill 15. I work inside, so I’m twice lucky, and I have a newly insulated home with a working furnace, which makes me luckier still. I will suffer about a half hour of nose freeze on my way to and from work today, and I can live with that. I won’t face a choice between food and fuel, a night in a shelter or in my car.
Talking to my elderly father yesterday, he bemoaned (as he does every week) the flood of charitable solicitations that arrive in his mailbox each day. He donated to a national group that sold his address to every other similar charitable group on the face of the Earth, and he figures that all the postage and printing that’s been spent on him far outweighs the amount of his original donation.
There are far more worthy causes than I have money to give, but I usually donate closer to home – where my money helps my neighbors, and sometimes my friends. I donate my time to a friend’s 5k race, which raises money for families with disabled kids to make their homes accessible. This year I gave to the ALS society because a friend’s husband was recently diagnosed with this life-altering disease.
But mostly I stick to the necessities: food, heat, shelter. The number of Americans – and Vermonters – who can’t even muster those basics is growing at an alarming rate. Especially when the temperature dips and the wind chills to the bone, a little cold, hard cash might thaw out the most frigid winter day for people who, with a little twist of fate, could easily be me.