A winter reflection by Nancy Constantine
My daily routine begins “feet on the ground” walking with my two dogs to the top of my street and back. For the first time after an unusually long and warm fall going into winter, things changed on December 3rd. Our early day frolic was now evidenced by 10 footprints. As I examined the footsteps of previous sojourners that morning, I tried to make sense of the story they were telling. It looked like two sets of prints merged together, perhaps young lovers, maybe a fall into the snow from too much imbibement or childlike winter pleasure; then the two sets of footprints continued again on their way. As I continued with my four-legged boys, I contemplated the footsteps marked by this season. In my family, there is a wedding, so my niece’s new husband will add a set of footsteps to our family. Sadly, we have one less set of prints with the loss of my cousin, Billy this year. What is the footprint story in your family?
As winter has finally arrived and we are in the midst of severe wind chill, there will be increased footsteps into Siloam Mission and other places of refuge. People will also seek sanctuary in less desirable locations such as bus shacks, abandoned buildings, and under bridges. Additionally, the holiday season can see a spike in steps to women’s shelters, as Nancy Vega writes how “home is not a home during the holidays” in Domestic Violence and the Holidays: A Survivor’s Guide, 2013. “For victims of domestic violence, the holidays can be a very dark and scary time. Unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and the increased consumption of alcohol can raise stress levels, which can contribute to incidents of domestic violence”. Steps to food banks and toy donation sites are increased, in efforts to normalize the demands and expectations of the season to those who face economic challenges. We can do our part by walking toward (rather than around or away from) those red ringing Salvation Army kettles across the city. Or we could call Dave Cunnin at Agape Table to make a financial donation, along with contributing tangibly to the weekly baskets at Church.
Over the next couple of weeks during the seasonal mayhem and for some melancholy, may I suggest we take some time to enjoy footsteps in different ways. Perhaps a stroll through one of our many lovely parks, venture out to Birds Hill Park for a hike or cross country ski. Our footsteps could take us to that elderly neighbour who is alone with a thermos of tea and a cookie, round up a group to go carolling at a Hospital or Nursing Home, or shovel the sidewalk for the Mom overwhelmed with responsibilities.
In memory of fellow runner, Joanne Schiewe, Race Director of the Police Half Marathon and Cancer Survivor Nick Paulet has appealed to the running community “to reach out to someone you have not spoken to in a while and see how they are doing. You will be amazed at how good it makes you feel”. Just put one foot in front of the other and the rest will sort itself out. I head to the East Coast this week and my charted 6 mile run awaits me, from my Dad’ house in Salisbury to the Trans Canada Highway and back. My every other day run is an effort to keep grounded, to process my thoughts, and to move the energy as my feet do the rhythmic dance leaving footprints on my path.
As we celebrate the ‘Footsteps of the Divine walking dusty roads’ this Holiday Season, may we be intentional in our Christmas journeys. May we find comfort in our traditions, may we find joy in the embrace of loved ones, and may we nudge ourselves to move ever so gently towards the space where foot paths are unclear, tensions are softened, and the unexpected is not feared. The promise remains that God’s footsteps can be heard ahead, behind, and beside us always – not just during the dichotomous season of Christmas.