Wind chill factor vs. the mercy factor

It lasted only a couple of days, but there was a major lesson to be learned in that short time frame.

Last holiday weekend, for a good 48 hours, the temperature hovered at or south of the zero degree mark, with wind chill factors 20-30 degrees colder than that. The last time it was that cold in the Fall River area at this time of year was when I was but a few months old.

Temperatures with such skinny numbers wreak havoc on so many things — cars and trucks whine, moan and groan before deciding to turn over, if they turn over at all. Roofs, walls and staircases seem to crack and pop in a most disturbing manner, as their composition expands and contracts with the air conditions. Water pipes exposed to the cold temperature are ticking time bombs with very damaging results should they burst.

But it’s not the material elements that are most threatened by temperatures preceded by a nasty negative sign. It’s the living creatures that most feel the brutal effects.

My poor pooch Igor would go out to do her thing, and limp back into the house with paws burning from the cold. I bought some dog booties for her, but at 13 years old, she wanted no part of two pairs of galoshes on her feet and made it perfectly clear I wasn’t to try to slip them on her. But one day I had to actually carry her up the deck stairs to bring her back in — her feet were so tender. 

Emilie said to me as we went to Mass on Sunday morning, “I don’t want to live where the air hurts my face.” One can’t argue with logic like that.

I made sure the bird feeder in our back yard was filled, and watched as dozens of our feathered friends clung to the cylinder extracting seeds to fill their bellies to help keep them warm. It was like watching bees swarming a hive.

Yet all of these examples pale in comparison to the area hungry and homeless whose plight is magnified immeasurably during this time of year.

I cannot, thankfully, imagine not running into a nice warm home after spending a few nasty moments in the elements.

I have no idea what it’s like not to be able to gobble down a nice hot stew or soup, or a sip at a hot chocolate or coffee.

But there are far too many of our brothers and sisters out there who don’t have those luxuries.

There are, however, countless faithful across this diocese who see to it that the basic needs of the homeless and hungry are met — not only during extreme conditions, but every week.

Miniscule temperatures helped me focus on this Year of Mercy by reminding me that not only should I try to put boots on my pup and keep bird feeders well stocked, but I should do more to help out my fellow creatures who are human and in equally dire straits. 

It’s why we’re here.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts