35 Below Zero
35 below zero and its one of the shortest days of year as I drive to work. The exhaust of the cars around me hung in the darkness and the tires squeaked on the frost covered hard-packed snow on the streets.
Looking ahead I searched the side street for a parking spot as I attempted to discern the color of the traffic light among the Christmas lights strung up and down the streets. There across the intersection I spotted one. I also saw two large dark figures moving in the darkness. The only way I could really see them was that they were darker than what is around them.
Briefly my mind switched to what the blind man Jesus healed said in Mark 8; “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” And then back again as I realized that I would interact with them if I parked in that spot.
I parked and stepped out of my car into the cold. Its that kind of cold that grabs a hold of you.
I quickly assessed the two dark shapes as I stepped onto the sidewalk.
They were young native men and both are dressed for the weather. They were wearing parkas, toques, winter boots and heavy leather mittens. They had backpacks on, and are covered by ponchos. That’s why they looked so imposing in the darkness.
They greeted me with a pleasant; “Good morning” and I reciprocated. They smiled as I scurried past them. By the time I got to my nice worm office building my breath had frozen to my mustache and eyebrows. It was a busy day, so I didn’t give them much more thought.
The next day was colder. What moisture there was in the air was crystallizing into tiny snowflakes and softly floating to the ground. I saw the same parking spot only this time there were four of these ‘walking trees’. They greeted me with a surprisingly cheery “Good morning” as again I replied and hurried off to my warm office where I arrived with my cheeks stinging from the cold. It was another busy day, so once more I didn’t give them much thought.
The third day was even colder. In the arctic moonlight I saw four ‘walking trees’, standing in the same spot. The air was so clear I could even see stars twinkling in the downtown shy. For the third time these young men greeted me with their disarming “Good morning”. This time I stopped and asked them if they were OK.
“Oh, we’re OK. We’ve got food and warm clothes” one replied. The others grunted in agreement.
As I again headed for my warm office, one of them asked; “Could we use the washroom at your office?”
I told them the building was only a block away, to follow me, and I would ask. As we headed for the office, for some strange reason I didn’t feel the cold anymore.
When we got to the building, I asked the security guard. He said it was OK, but he would only let one in at a time and they had to be gone by 8:00am.
They thanked me and I headed upstairs to my office.
On my way I thanked the Holy Spirit for prodding me to stop so I could ask them if they needed anything. Simply using a washroom in such bitter cold weather was such a treat for them.
It warmed up to 20 below the next day and they moved on and I never saw of them again.