Last April, after attending a business function downtown, I was stopped by a woman as I approached my car. She was tousled and a bit unkempt, though clean. Strapped to her chest was an infant.
April weather here is incredibly unpredictable and on that day there were snow fluries in the air. She looked cold and desperate as she explained her situation. she asked for a few dollars to help her find shelter and food for her and her baby that night while she waited for her name to rise to the top of an affordable housing waiting list. Her baby slept peacefully on – unaware of his circumstances.
I ached to give her more than I had – a few dollars and a clean fleece blanket from my car’s emergency kit – yet she received them as if I had given her far more. Tears misted both of our eyes. I returned home that day deeply changed.
That incident has stayed with me the last seven months, especially since I gave birth to my second child in August. As the weather begins to turn cold again, I find my thoughts frequently turning to that young woman - so desperate to provide for her baby that a few dollar bills and a blanket were received as if they were life’s grandest treasures. I have since learned that with the economic turmoil of the last year, shelters, food banks and other providers of basic necessities are in dire need of supplies for infants and young children – formula, diapers, wipes, blankets and the like. As a group, babies are among the most overlooked by those donating items to emergency shelters and clinics - and yet they are among the most vulnerable, especially during the harsh winter months.
As a result of last spring’s experience, my husband and I have decided this holiday season to provide some much-needed necessities to the local March of Dime’s Teddy Bear Den – a community based prenatal health program for low-income pregnant women – in lieu of gifts to family members. I cannot fathom the hollow ache that must fill one’s soul when the necessities are beyond one’s grasp. I don’t want to have to meet another mother and her baby on a snowy afternoon with nothing to eat and nowhere to go.
As I put my children down to bed tonight – in a warm home, with their bellies full – I am thinking again of the woman and the baby who are wrapped up somewhere in my purple fleece blanket. This year, my Thanksgiving holiday is dedicated to them and others like them - may this winter bring better fortunes, a warm place to sleep and enough food to not have to put your little one to bed hungry.
If you have a warm place to sleep and enough food to satiate your hunger during this season of giving, count your blessings and join me in sharing what extra you might have with the littlest of those among us.
-Sara Brueck Nichols