Friday, January 5, 2018


True confession time: I am afraid of the cold. Extreme cold, that is. Not your ordinary, run of the mill, seasonal winter chill. But the thought of going out in bitter cold temperatures actually stirs up feelings of legitimate fear inside me. Today as I contemplate bundling up and going to work, I feel a sense of dread.

Most of us have had brushes with serious cold during our lives. For me it was that day in the second grade when we stood at the bus stop in a snowstorm and the bus didn’t come. Or it was late. I can’t remember. I just remember clutching my book bag as I tried not to cry in front of the bigger kids. Then there was the time my dad forgot to pick me up after a rehearsal, that night in New Haven when I couldn’t get a cab to come pick me up, the winter my landlord took his sweet time fixing our broken heating system.

The memory of being that cold stays with you. And, perhaps now that I am older, I am more prone to avoidance. I read recommendations on how to wear layers, drink warm drinks, and so on. A little voice inside me says, “Yes, you do that. I’m staying under my blanket.”

But life goes on. People need to go to work. And children need to go to school. It’s not realistic for life to come to a complete standstill, I tell myself. Where’s your sense of adventure? Wouldn’t today be a good day to put out trays of water with the students and see how fast they freeze? And indoor recess can mean a good old fashioned dance party and marching around the room with rhythm instruments.

Here’s the thing. My school will have heat. And my students will come to school appropriately dressed, well fed. Others are not so lucky. Students in many Baltimore City Schools are suffering due to lack of heat. And here in Howard County we have students without adequate winter clothing. Last night Vicky Cutroneo, president of the PTA Council of Howard County, started an online conversation by sharing this concern:

How can we get coats/gloves/hats to the students who need them most efficiently ?  Some schools have immediate overwhelming need and students can’t wait for a coat collection drive.

What followed was conversation amongst concerned parents and teachers about what can be done, what is already being done, and what actions would be the most practical and effective. By the way, a related theme was the amazement that so many items of winter clothing end up in the lost and found. Get out your permanent marker and label everything, people. It is the clothing equivalent of micro-chipping your pet. Or, as I used to tell parents, “You don’t need to label all your child’s belongings. Only the ones you ever want to see again.”

Keep warm today. Wear layers. Drink warm drinks. Bundle up your children. Try to find within yourself a sense of adventure and a spirit of fun. And, if you can, find a way to help someone else make it through this miserable winter cold.

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