If the snow hasn't already swept your way, the chances are it's going to fly in any minute now for a long weekend, perhaps asking to be put up in the honeymoon suite and demanding a full tour of the all the best local attractions. Don't you just hate it when SNOW ruins your plans?
As I got home from the gym last night, my hands bluer than a Smurf's tears, I felt blessed to be arriving home to my haven. My bath-tub, the central-heating system, my onesie (still a novelty) and my beautiful, fairy-lit BED. Before the luxury of all that had even had a chance to register, a second gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, guilt-ridden thought caught up with it - the same thought I have had for much of my life - 'what about the people who don't have this?'
While the exact figure as to how many people are currently living rough in the UK isn't clear, it is thought to be over 50,000 and in the last 3 years it has risen by 25%. Those sleeping rough are subject to snow, ball-breaking cold temperatures and damp conditions 24/7 - and with absolutely no relief. No hot bath to warm their bones. No radiators. No fire to warm their hands. Not even a flicker of hope to warm their hearts and guide them through until morning. Honestly? I wouldn't survive one night.
Whatever their circumstances, however they got there, why they haven't had help - it doesn't really matter. What matters is that there are real, actual, human people out there every night, right on our doorsteps, freezing. Right through to their souls. I have never been homeless, because I have been so, so, so blessed in my life, but that doesn't stop me from feeling their pain and beyond that realising that as much as I might think I sympathise,I actually can't even begin to imagine the hardship sleeping rough must bare.
I have always been deeply disturbed by the concept of homelessness, often crying in public when I am caught unawares, but I've never done anything - I have gone on with my life and shut it out. That is until recently when someone said to me 'there is no point in being upset about something, unless you are going to do something about it' and in a heartbeat totally changed my previously useless attitude towards homelessness.
This year, when I found myself teary on Christmas Day about the people not only without family but without even a bed that night, instead of just drying my tears and forgetting in the next breath, I donated to Shelter there and then, at 7pm Christmas Day on my iphone while we sat around watching Call the Midwife. It was easy and you can do the same here. I instantly felt better for donating - probably more for me than for them but at least I'd made a difference. Since then I have signed up to volunteer at SYHA and am awaiting an interview before I can get started. I don't know why it has taken me so long to act on this but I am really glad I have.
While we are all entitled to complain about the inconvenience the bad weather may bring us, it is always worth bearing in mind that there are people so much worse off, and while it is inconvenient to get snow in your hair and ice on your hands, that is all it is. Inconvenient.
I want to finish by sharing this song that we used to sing in assembly at primary school - it is the song that left a painful feeling in 8 year old Hannah's heart that never really went away.
Bless all those sleeping rough tonight.