As Winter is setting in here in the Eastern Midwest, I am reminded of those people that came out to Sanctuary to bring hot food on cold nights, pallets and sheet plastic to build structures, drivers for doctors appointments, visitors coming and going, volunteers, the pastors and other lay people, the children, the part timers, the college students, and the hundreds if not thousands of other people that came out to do whatever it was they came to do. We were always thankful for each and everyone of them. There is a story that Sweets just loves to share.
A young man, a college student, had gone to the Whiskey Barrel one night with his friends and I believe his girlfriend. The doors were going to open in about fifteen minutes, and it was a cold night, we had gotten a few inches of snow on top of the ten or so we already had that year. (Now when I talk about snow and how deep it is; keep in mind that in amongst the trees snow melts slower as the sunlight does not penetrate the canopy so easily, it drifts very easily though, so it gets deep passed the tree line.) Well, the young man had to use the restroom and the bouncer would not let him in just to use the restroom, so he crossed the street and came into Sanctuary. He had followed the main trail down into the trees and walked into an area that afforded him some protection from viewers up at the bar. He began to relieve himself and as he was standing there Oscar, the Cat, walked up to him. Oscar was a very friendly cat and loved to love on people. Evidently, the young man did not see Oscar there walking up to him or hear her, (yes, Oscar was a female tabby,) as she meowed quite a lot. That young man was so intent on getting out of there, he left one of his shoes, a penny loafer, it is a very distinct show design, right where he was standing. Gnome and I had been outside chopping wood when Oscar came running up to us. We had the experience in the past that if Oscar was running towards us, it was because someone had spooked her. At the same moment that Oscar got into our camp; Sweets, Gnome, and I heard the young man start screaming, “Watch out there’s lions and bears in there!” and “Get out of my way!” Well that peaked our interest as to what was really going on, so we walked over to where Oscar’s tracks had come from and there in the yellow snow was a footprint with a penny loafer sitting on it’s side. That young man had run straight through about five feet of brambles, in knee deep snow with only one shoe on. That was impressive. Well we retrieved the shoe and walked out to the line where everyone was standing and there in line was the young man with his friends, with the other penny loafer. He had no jacket or coat on, so his dress shirt, slacks and arms were a bit tore up where the brambles had latched onto him. I held up the shoe and Gnome asked if anyone was missing a shoe. Nearly half the line pointed to the young man, his girlfriend and immediate friends were laughing pretty hard at him. He refused to take the shoe, “That’s not my shoe.” After trying to convince him he could have it we walked away and headed to the door where the bouncer had been standing taking in this scene of two homeless guys trying to give this young man his shoe back. We handed him the shoe, explained what had happened, and began walking away. About that time Sweets walked out of the woods holding Oscar. It was at that moment that everyone was laughing. The young man left the line, walked up to the bouncer, and left for the night.
I shared that with you so that one you could enjoy a funny story and two to say, ‘Be Prepared.’ The young man, did not have the right shoes for walking in snow whether it was in the woods to go pee, or to be walking around in a couple inches of snow in a parking lot. He also did not have anything covering his arms, which being bloody were also a shade of blue. We walked into a place that he did not know what he would experience. Being prepared when helping others, not only means having supplies to hand out but to also be well equipped to take care of yourself as well.
One Winter I was walking home down Grand River in Farmington Hills and a car had gotten stuck in the snow bank in a turn around lane. The driver did not have a shovel, salt or sand, gloves, a coat, he did not even have anyway to warn other drivers he was there, (yes it was snowing quite hard and he was driving a white car, ) he had nothing to help himself out. So please make sure to equip your vehicles with the right kind of equipment for Winter driving. Also, make sure to have the right gear to wear in the off chance that you may need it. I was only two blocks from home and was dressed in layers. I ended up handing off my new gloves to him and one of my coats that I had on. I was prepared to walk the distance I had to go. Please, if you are going to be out in the elements make sure that you are equipped to deal with them. I also make sure to keep an Army poncho with me when I know I will be in bad weather, whether it is rain, sleet, or heavy snow. Good ponchos make for a great additional outer layer. And in the snow someone dressed in green actually shows up.
Basically, it is wise to have in a small back pack in your vehicle the following, (remember cotton when it gets wet can make you cold (and potentially lead to serious health issues), wool when it gets wet will still act a warm layer until it has been exposed for a bit of time);
for your Torso: coat, jacket, flannel shirt, t-shirt, and long john top;
from the Waist down: underwear, long john bottoms, leggings, pants, snow pants;
for your Feet: foot warmers, two pair of wool socks, sock liners, boot liners, cold weather boots;
for your Hands: gloves, mittens, hand warmers;
for your Head and Neck: polarized sunglasses or goggles, cowl, scarf, ski mask, wool hat.
Remember, as you go through your day you sweat, even if you are in a cold office you will sweat. So, a fresh layer of under clothes can make you feel warm just by them being clean. You will also want to consider having protein bars, snacks, nuts, or other food that does not freeze and is sealed in a wrapper or bag so that it stays fresh and dry. Foods that do not force your body to work hard to process it is better than a bag of chips, but if a bag of chips is what you have than that will work.
The above list will also be good things to keep on hand when you might encounter someone else in need. Also, and I know people do not want to think about it, keep a couple of blankets or sleeping bags in your vehicles as well a space blankets, even window sun visors with the silver reflective on them, and a foam, not air sleeping pad. Go with me on this.
The sleeping pad is the base layer, then the sun visor with the silver reflective side goes underneath you shiny side up, then you either put a layer (if a sleeping bag, or two layers if blankets under you), then cover with the space blanket and then close the blankets or sleeping bag over the top.
Remember, I thank you for reading this blog and I just want you to be safe this Winter, regardless of the climate you are in. For Sweets and I that would be Michigan where one day, it is below freezing when we wake up and even colder by the time we go to bed, and in a couple of days it is supposed to be in the mid 50’s. Snow and ice the last couple of days and rain and mud a couple of days from now.
Also an extra bag of sand comes in handy when getting stuck in the snow for creating traction for your tires, that same bag can also create extra weight in your vehicle to keep better traction in the snow, ice and slush. And if you happen to be stranded for the night or until the tow truck or plow truck comes a little extra money will be handy to go somewhere to get out of the cold, whether it is a hotel room or an all night coffee shop.
Semper Fidelis, Sweets and Elroy