A cold neighbor

It is snowing in Chicago, and I’m indoors, observing the flakes from the warmth and safety of a comfy chair.  I’ve watched folks trudging down the streets, fighting the wind and cold, and have offered up murmurs of thanksgiving for a cup of hot tea, and the cat warming my lap.  My mind wandered back to a day a couple of years ago when I had an early 8 am dentist appointment one Saturday.  I’d walked to the dentist (a mere five blocks from my home), but while in the chair, a heavy snow storm hit.  Winds picked up.  It was near white-out at times.

When I left the dentist’s office, my face was numb: not only from the bitter wind, but also from the anesthesia I’d been given.  It had been a lengthy procedure, wherein old fillings from a childhood overseas were removed (having been deemed of poor quality) and replaced with more modern, quality material.  As I crossed the threshold out into the wintry mess, I wiped drool from the side of my cheek.  Ugh.  My eyes had watered during the procedure, and I was very aware of the mascara smudged beneath my eyes.  The sting of the wind was making my eyes water more.

I trudged the first block through about 8 inches of freshly fallen snow.  Beautiful, really.  But I’d not gone prepared, and my tennis shoes were slick and full of snow.  I glanced up and saw a man walking my direction and thought great… another one of the neighborhood’s homeless… expecting a handout.

As he approached I attempted to not make eye contact.  But he called out to me: “Lady?”  I glanced his way.

“Lady… you look really cold.  Could I buy you a sandwich? Or a cup of hot coffee?”  He pointed at the McDonald’s nearby.  And I stood there, gaping at the irony of my situation.  I mumbled a thank you, and he led me by the hand over a drift and into the restaurant.  I accepted a cup of coffee, and had an interesting conversation with someone from the neighborhood I would never have otherwise met.

He graciously mentioned that it was his faith tradition to help the poor and those in need.  I asked him what church he attended, and he pointed to the local mosque.  I smiled and mentioned I was baptist.  We rejoiced in the commonalities which bridge our faith, our neighborhood, and the human condition.

Winter in the city.

Winter in the city.



5 thoughts on “A cold neighbor

  1. planted oak says:

    LOL! that is such a great story! his perception of your situation has me smiling so much. we actually had really great dental services on the center growing up. even had my wisdom teeth pulled there on a visit back ’cause it cost next to nothing. and i have one gold cap made for me in png that i am determined to hold on to purely for sentimental reasons 🙂 anyway, glad you shared! –kris

  2. The majority of my dental work took place in the General Hospital in Port Moresby… that and an emergency appendectomy. Not great experiences, but that was 30 years ago! I’m sure there have been lots of improvements since then. Glad your experience at the center (not sure what that refers to) was good!

  3. Marilyn says:

    Love love this story. Having lived through several Chicago winters this felt particularly poignant. One year I remember being downtown in a blizzard with my now husband and an exchange student from Egypt – all of us pretty lost and alone. We ended up at an all night diner as I remember

    • Once while living in Evanston, I had to walk to work at Evanston NorthWestern hospital… about 6 blocks total. There was a blizzard, and I walked 4 of the six blocks straight down the middle of Sheridan Road, before making the turn on Central. Did not see a single car. Snow was up to my knees. I got to the hospital, and they’d called me off. Ha! Figures!

      That’s the wonderful think about the city, Marilyn. You can be cold and lost and feel quite alone… and then find a diner that’s open with friendly staff, and likely a few other people in similar circumstances.

      • Marilyn says:

        Yes! That’s exactly it. There is something about the anonymity of the city that still yields community in strange and wonderful ways. I worked at Evanston Hospital too! In 1983 right after being deported from Pakistan! Oncology floor…..we have to meet!


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