People are fascinated by talk of a BIG STORM. The weather professionals heighten our anticipation giving us a step by step breakdown of the storms impending arrival. We rush to the store for milk, bread and batteries.
Those of us with miles on our odometer hearken back to the ‘Great New England Blizzard of 1978’. The ‘Blizzards of 2015’ which dumped nine feet of snow on our coastal town remain a vivid memory.
Storms have a way of bringing people together. In many ways it brings out the best in us. We check in on our neighbors, help out strangers.
Storms also highlight the precariousness of neighbors living on the streets. I’ve been thinking about two friends in particular, Earl and Lyle (not their real names). Earl is an alcoholic active in his addiction. Lyle wrestles with mental illness and self medicates with alcohol and drugs.
Earl and Lyle come to the church I serve for a hot meal, use the rest room or warm up in the hallway. We’ve gotten to know one another. I’ve learned about their past, their struggles, their hopes for the future. I’ve come to see them as brothers, each of us doing our best to get by.
Tonight as I often do, I worry for their safety. We have a limited emergency shelter system here on the North Shore. Most shelters are ‘dry’, which means they won’t accept a person like Earl or Lyle if drunk or high. The one ‘wet’ shelter for the most fragile of the fragile is full.
On this eve of the storm I’ll offer a prayer for my homeless sisters and brothers. I’ll offer a prayer for city workers who plow our streets and first responders who do their best to keep us safe. A prayer too for those who staff our shelters.
Tonight weather experts tell us the BIG STORM will come. In the days following the temperature is forecast to plummet down to the single digits.
My hope is that we will take good care of each other. My hope too is that we will recommit ourselves to strengthening our fragile social service safety net. It will require an ongoing commitment and collaboration of faith communities, non-profits and government.
This storm will pass. The need to take care of each other continues.