And no, I’m not talking about the 3 Loonies – although that happened too, with the generous community support this fine city is known for…
No, something else happened today. A quiet, spur-of-the-moment act of kindness that usually flies under the radar.
Our new neighbours up the street, the Peterborough County-City Health Unit, organized a chili lunch for staff today in their new digs on King Street (the former Federal Building). By the staff, of the staff, for the staff. Their lunchroom is at the back of the building, at the southeast corner and in plain sight of a group of men who regularly hang out there, adjacent to the public walkway – some with flasks – and most without proper winter clothing to keep them shielded from the cold that has spared us of late, but has begun to arrive now.
Not to suggest they’re homeless. We don’t, in fact know their story. But they like to gather there along the public walkway, swap stories, and do what people who don’t really have anything to do – DO….they hang out.
The staff in the lunchroom looked out, saw the fellows, realized they had more food than they needed. And one staffer, on the spur of the moment, in an act of kindness and generosity, suggested they take bowls out to the men. The Health Unit are the new neighbours, after all. Perhaps the men might be hungry. It’s the Christmas season, after all.
And so they did.
There is no doubt the benefactors to this surprise meal, delivered to them at their spot by the walkway, were touched. It’s not every day that somebody walks out to bring you a bowl of chili and a smile, when most would instead be admonishing you to be on your way.
And then a remarkable thing happened. A small thing, to be sure. But remarkable just the same. Without any prompting, a couple of the guys walked over to our studios here at FRESHradio, buzzed the door and were invited into our lobby where they proceeded to tell us, practically with tears in their eyes, about how these nice folks from the big red brick building were so kind to bring them out some food. They were so touched by this, they were motivated to walk over, to ask us to publicly thank them over the radio for undertaking such a sweet act of generosity to strangers.
I’m using this forum to deliver their message.
I want to point out that this in no way reflects any policy or protocol of the Peterborough County-City Health Unit, although I’m confident that their commitment to the health and well-being of this community and its citizens has no bearing on income, status, age, lifestyle or any other qualifier that makes us all different from one another.
But no – this was just a collection of staffers, gathering for a festive lunch and, noticing some fellow human beings in obvious need just outside their window, showed them some compassion by way of a steaming bowl of chili.
We don’t know who these folks are, or what their stories are, or why they choose to spend their days along a public walkway in the shadow of a four-story red-brick building in our downtown core (beyond the fact it is, it can be said, close to the LCBO).
But may we never lose sight of the fact that these, among us, are human beings too. They may not have a job right now, they may be strapped for cash. They may be suffering ill health, or addictions. They may not have a warm coat to shield them from the cold. Circumstance may dictate all kinds of scenarios that most among us, with home and hearth and opportunity, could not even imagine.
But they are also human beings, with feelings, and emotions, and hopes and dreams like the rest of us. Maybe they are n’er-do-wells. But maybe they are also just down on their luck. Sometimes, circumstance can rob you of a job, of a home, of a family. Of a warm place to sleep.
Bless the beasts and the children, among us, who have not. But also bless those among us who have, and who take the time and the initiative akin to the staff at the health unit to bring a smile and a bit of Yuletide cheer to total strangers in the form of a steaming bowl of chili. Good on you, health unit staffers. There is no better joy, than to extend a hand to someone in need. Something this community does so very, very, very well.
We may never know what it truly means to them. But today, in the faces of the fellows who came to tell us of the kindness of strangers, we got a hint.
It meant so much to them. And they tried to find a way to thank them publicly, by coming in and asking us to thank these kind strangers on their behalf.
And so we are.
And in the wise words of a dear old friend, ‘This is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown…’