On a freezing winter’s night a week before Christmas, we gathered together to share our tidings, join in friendship, and prepare for a silent night. As in past visits, there were homeless who had nothing but what they carried and were woefully unprepared to survive the -30 degree wind-chill forecasted that evening.
And with a stern face toward the wind, I posed with John and Bernard as they filled their arms with blankets, tents, coats, gloves and everything else that would protect them from the elements. John, holding his new tent and yellow blanket, was washed with tears of relief as he exhaled the anxiety of not having to sleep in the open air another night. Bernard behind him had recently been hit by a car that was sliding on the ice on Dearborn Avenue and was recovering from a third degree concussion. His vision has been blurred since the accident and he’s been unable to keep his food down after meals. His lifelong schizophrenia his left him too scared to stay in the hospital for treatment and now he’s become malnourished and sleep deprived. However, Bernard will eat Pop tarts because they’re in the silver packages and he too will get more sleep in a covered tent. Bernard gave me a very strong hug as we parted ways, and he wished me a very Merry Christmas over and over again.
Many others came and stocked up on supplies and a bit of holiday cheer in the form of hot berry tea. In the end, we all wished for warmth, friendship and hope.
And walking up the step of Assumption Catholic Church to greet Paul and Peter, I was struck by familiar lyrics. “Silent Night, Holy Night…Sleep in heavenly peace.” Paul and Peter had been taking refuge in the front vestibule of this church’s entry way for over three years. Like most, they sought a silent, calm and bright place to rest. They were full of good cheer and were rosy about the upcoming Christmas Day. Taken aback by such exuberance, I had to ask, “What’s got you so happy, why are you so optimistic?” With a few measured breaths, Paul answered back, “You my friend…as long as there’s sympathy, kindness and goodwill; there’s a lot to be thankful for.”
“Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright…sleep [my friends] in heavenly peace!”
All these blessings are being provided for by the immense generosity of people like Lisa Swiontek, Ericka Godbey Fannon, Amy Orrick Hasty, Danell Culkin, Jean Grys, Jamie Agront, Kim Mace, Sara Sanders, Gilly Fealy, Jacob Fraser, Connie Duden, Alecia Rahn-Blakeslee, Annie Deutschmann, Cindy Hewett, Jim Levesque, Jason Torres, Darryl Hom, Jim Nadenbush, Jim Eubanks, Tom Itschner, Janet Culkin, Julie McElwee, Amanda Winne Fritz, Stacey Smith Kelley, Jon Hill, and Andrea Pescaglia Schade and everyone who’s sent encouraging words.