As snow beats down on Philadelphia again today, setting records for most Nor Easters the city has seen, and inches of snow laid in a single season, the first thing that pops in my head are the homeless and infirmed. Snow storms like these are absolutely crippling. "Whiteout" conditions allow for poor visibility and very high, freezing winds. Enough to keep the hardest skinned indoors. That is, if you have an indoors. Phil is a gray bearded homeless man who attends church with me at St. Marks Episcopal on Locust. He, like me, sits in the same pew every week as we pray, sing, listen and bask in a glory higher than ourselves.
Phil does not like speaking to anyone. The only multiple words between us occured when he happened to buy a cup of coffee and a bagel at a Starbuck's I was training in. I went up to him, cleared his bagel wrappers from the table, and asked if I cold buy him a refill. "Ok." "Alright, here you are, Phil!" "Ok, thanks." He didn't look me in the eye, his facial expression unchanged. But those words were enough for me. Phil, I've been told, also sleeps in the church courtyard when the weather permits, and can therefore, most of the year, get his much needed rest amongst flowers, grass, a secure gate, and the knowledge that he is welcome.
Well, Philadelphia Februaries and whiteouts are not welcoming. I look outside the window and wonder where Phil is today? Where is he staying? Is he getting his cup of coffee? Is he welcomed wherever he is?
During my tenure with some painful prosthetics, days like this would just put me down. The pain I would suffer walking over poorly shoveled streets, clenching my stump when blindly stepping on a patch of ice, or detoured around hills the plows have left behind (and therefore adding to my dreaded and excruciating step-count), was, as I look back on it, was the absolute worst. But the solace I had was a warm home. A place I could remove my prosthetic, and sit and heal myself. Everyone needs a place to heal themselves.
I am sorry that Phil is homeless and that this weather really shuts down his daily routine. But I know there is a place that welcomes him; a place where he and I can sit together, albeit in different pews, and feel that same warmth together. A place where he and I can sit and heal ourselves. In a cold Northeastern city like this one, I am thankful for things like St. Marks, refillable coffee, secured gates and especially for my brother Phil for reminding me the true meaning of home.