the gift of warmth

so i was reading this, about how important it is, during the cold weather, to donate blankets and coats. there are so many people out there, and so little a societal safety net to catch them. and they are cold. even in the warmer parts of the country, it gets damn cold at night.

and in the reading of that i was moved to tell you a story about my past, something i don’t often speak of. i don’t feel comfortable with this, but i am compelled.

it was a litttle over three years ago. chris and i had a major falling out, and through a series of circumstances that aren’t even really writable, i found myself, in the last months of nineteen ninety-nine, with no place to live.

for the purpose of this story i must admit that the hard times i’d fallen on prior to this falling out involved me being in the cal-works program. that’s welfare, ok? i was a single welfare mother with a part time internship job found through the cal-works office, where the educational counselor was impressed enough by my fledgeling attempts at making websites to find me this job, this minimum wage for half the time i worked job, while i went to school. i made so little money i still qualified for welfare payments. but none of this was enough for me to afford an apartment when i found myself suddenly out. out of my home.

enter the salvation army transitional living center, and a small miracle. there were eight studio-type apartments and a single women’s dormitory in the facility, in the heart of downtown ventura (yes, a homeless shelter three blocks from the beach – very ventura, that). openings in the family shelter were rare, but the morning i met with Miss Donna, there was a resident moving out the next day. chances of that? maybe one in fifty. maybe more.

i’d like to go into how much that chance saved my sorry ass, how without it i have no idea where, or if, i’d be now. but that’s not what i had to say when i began writing this. i just wanted to tell you about a dream of mine.

while i was living at the shelter, one winter afternoon, a couple pulled up in an unremarkable, rather worn looking mini-winnebago type thing. they approached the fenced patio area, where children were playing and parents were smoking and hanging out. they had a huge bag, full of child-sized knit gloves and matching caps, and they handed out a set to each kid. it was a quiet, simple, thoughful gesture. it was a small bright difference made in some difficult lives.

it’s my dream to do just that same thing one day. i’m figuring this year — this last one ended kinda rough. but i’m going to do it, just as simply and humbly as that couple did. if i did do new year’s resolutions, this would be mine.

30 thoughts on “the gift of warmth

  1. these were your basic storebought knit gloves and caps. maybe five to seven bucks to the set, but having to have enough sets that no one goes without.

    basically, it would be arriving at a point in my life when i had an extra hundred bucks or so, and wasn’t behind on bills, or worried about finding myself suddenly self-employed.

    this will take a bit of time, but by the time the next cold season rolls around, i plan to be ready.

  2. You tell so much, yet you keep so much hidden in this space, kd.

    Quite the mysterious storyteller you be.

    Much like Charlotte’s Web, I’m trapped within by curiosity.

  3. If our financial situation changes (and as of yesterday, things are looking up a bit) I’m already building charitable donations into my monthly budget. Organizational, but especially individual.

    Thanks for sharing this story, kd. It strengthens my resolve to know that kindness like this exists, and it’s direct. Direct, human contact is so important.

  4. It took a lot of courage to share your story, and to work your way out of that situation, kd. Thank you for sharing it, and kudos for your accomplishments, personal and professional. It bears repeating: You ROCK.

  5. It took a lot of courage to share your story, and to work your way out of that situation, kd. Thank you for sharing it, and kudos for your accomplishments, personal and professional. It bears repeating: You ROCK.

  6. You are so very brave.
    Someday I’ll tell an almost sort of similar story but not yet. Not even in fiction.
    I heard a tourist on the street, the other day, saying “homeless people are mostly out here for their own reasons, they made a choice and they damned well have to deal with it,” or something a little colder and more priveledged, and I wanted to take her by the shoulders and tell her what for. Instead I sneezed on her. No I didn’t, but I thought about it.
    Thanks for the reminder to do whatever we can to help those who need it.

  7. That’s an amazing story, kd. You always manage to surprise and amaze me, did you know that?

    You could do that this year, you know. Easily. Look how many people have already offered to donate! 🙂

    I’ve organized drives this like before (back when I lived in Alabama), and it really is the most satisfying, amazing, humbling thing in the world to be a part of.

    I’ve got some stuff I could donate, too. 🙂

  8. KD, when you go to do this, be sure to contact me okay? You know I have some resourses………….and well, if the donation isn’t directly to the organization the amount can’t be alot, but I do have allowance money. LOL, don’t go thinking thats quarters and dimes either, I usually get over $100 week descretionary funds that I can spend any way I want without reciepts. If you want some of it, you can have it to do this project. Let me know, I will get it to you okay? I usually have around $30 extra each week I don’t have stuff to pay. okay, just want to help some.

  9. wow, kd- maybe you won’t have spare time once you begin freelancing. it looks like you have the power to get things/people moving! add me to the list of contributors.

  10. *tears in eyes* KD, that is a wonderful gesture and I agree with all you said that you should set up a donation button. I know that we would donate at the drop of a hat, seriously!

    I remember a while back, a communinty got together in canada and handed out sleeping bags to the people who were living on the street. To this day that story has always made me tear.

    what I would love to do, is what I have seen a afther and son do on a really cold winters day, they were walking along the main street of downtown, handing out cups of hot cocoa to all those they found living on the streets. One day I hope I find the courage to do that.

    if you need any help, with anything, drop us a line please!

  11. I was just talking to my dad yesterday about donating clothes. My parents had a ton of old (but still good) clothes and coats that no one used anymore. He started talking about how he cleaned out the closets a few weeks ago and threw everything away. He was very proud of himself that he cleaned (we’re a family of packrats), but I couldn’t believe it. I told him he should have donated it, and if the agency or whatever really thought they were too old or worthless, let THEM throw it out. He looked at me as if I were insane, and said it was too much of a pain in the ass. “The garbage men pick it up in front of the house, if I wanted to donate it, I’d have to drive it across town.” I was pissed – they were good coats and gloves and hats and scarves, and now they’re taking up space in a landfill (that’s another reason why it pissed me off – I hate wasting perfectly good things). I can’t even imagine how many people in this country think just like my dad – if they didn’t, there would be a lot less cold people in this world.

    Oh, and I’d TOTALLY donate to your cause, if you were to set it up (as if you don’t have enough projects going on already.) 🙂

  12. well, in spite of all the support offered, i’d so rather have you all just find something in your own home town — just seems so unfair for me to collect donations from all over, to do something like this just locally.

  13. kd – I work as a volunteer coordinator at just such a place you describe. people like those you describe, people like those who have commented here, and people like you are those we depend on. If I could encourage each who has commented to do something it would be to contact a shelter in their area and make the gestures they have written about here. ;-)) big smiles would be seen in each place.

    warmth around the world . . . hmmm that has a nice ring to it.

    you go, kd!! >..

  14. You could set up a donation button or something like that to collect for next winter. Maybe asking people to send you the money or the actual new gloves and hats. I would donate to something like that.

  15. I’m with wKen. I’d give a couple of bucks happily. I was thinking about that this past christmas after seeing the local giving tree, and all the unanswred cards on it.

  16. KD is right…in every town, in every state, and every country…all over the world, people are going cold tonight. Dig out your old, castoff, new and hated, and extras…SOMEBODY would love to have it.

    And you’ll be blessed for doing it…


  17. Before even reading your last comment, I thought that! Boy, KD, I’m in awe. You are inspiring. Listen, I think I may try to do just that… Select a charity, promote it in some way on the web and make a charitable donation of some sort. Thanks for the idea… mmmwah! (That was a kiss on the cheek)

  18. That’s quite a story, and a great one. There’s a group of knitters here who do hats and mittens for kids in need – they said they’d take my scarf, so I, novice knitter, am knitting away. When I finish, I’ll think of you.

  19. ‘Pennies for college’ is a fundraiser site set up to sponsor a college graduate. It is also a social experiment designed to see if people will actually care enough for their fellow man to send a single penny him. Your donation will make all the difference in the world.

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