We’re nearing the end of winter on Ash Wednesday. It has been a tough one for much of this country. Here in Cincinnati, we’ve seen the most snow and ice since the winter of 1978. Needless to say, people have been miserable. One of the worst storms was a few weeks ago. First came a layer of ice, then a bunch of snow, then it rained, then it snowed. Only in Cincinnati! Then it got very cold—subzero. The result was an incredibly heavy load on streets and walks everywhere, covering a layer of solid ice. Then it stayed and hardened. And our city just couldn’t get to the side streets—ever. Lots of people were put upon.
Out my window on Liberty Street, I see the sidewalk that goes along in front of St. Francis Seraph Church. Like the one in front of Franciscan Media, it had been cleared before things got too hard. But Republic Street (more of an alley) between was treacherous. And we have a lot of foot traffic here. Old folks. Crippled folks. Mothers with kids. And the rest of the street crowd, mostly homeless and alcoholic.
I looked out on this from my window for about a morning, then I decided to do something. I borrowed the shovel from our garage and started chipping away at a path. I knew that, once a path was cleared, the sun would dry it out and keep a safe pass-through. So I took it upon myself to clear a path. (I did this on my own, time, Father Dan.)
When I had about a foot to go, I simply could go no farther—my hand got sore. Then a friendly guy came down the alley. He might well have been one of our homeless friends. He certainly reeked of liquor, but he was walking steady. I must admit I wondered about him. He saw the situation and offered to help. Between the two of us, we finished chipping the ice from that last foot (it took about 10 minutes!), and parted with a friendly chatter.
The next day, at sunrise, I proudly looked out on the path, and watched people use it for the next few days. But I wasn’t proud for judging that guy who turned out to be such a help. An angel in disguise. I’ll think on that as Lent gets underway.