The young girl’s words were prophetic; I just wasn’t paying much attention at the time.
The time was nearly 20 years ago when my wife, Annette, and I were taking a look at what would become our first house.
As we toured the basement, one of the owner’s two young daughters told me, “This is where we spend most of our time because it’s coolest in the summer and warmest in the winter.”
It was a telling remark, but, as I said, I wasn’t paying too much attention. Instead, I was wrapped up in the overall appearance of the Oak Lawn home: brick, three bedrooms, two bath, full basement with a ton of potential, nice backyard, two–car garage.
And, most importantly, it was in our price range. Six thousand dollars was all that stood between the initial asking and offering prices. We met in the middle and closed the deal around this time of year. We rented to the owner until spring so she could finish student teaching and we could honor our apartment lease.
We’ve done a lot of work to the house over the years, and I can’t imagine moving, but as I write this column from my home—in the midst of the year’s first cold snap—I sure am cold.
It’s nothing new. Happens any time the temperatures sink into the single digits. The reason is simple: the house is poorly insulated. I know this because when our bathrooms were remodeled, I got a first-hand look at what passed for “insulation” in the late 1940s, the era when my home was built.
Newspaper. Lots and lots of newspaper. Today, every new home is protected from the cold with thick layers of fiberglass insulation. It’s tough to imagine that builders once stuffed newspaper between the studs.
Over the years, we’ve installed a new boiler (we have hot water heat) and replaced the doors and windows, but the house remains less than toasty. I can still hear my father mumble, “It’s chilly in here” during time he lived with us.
The ultimate solution, I suppose, is to have insulation blown into the walls, but that seems expensive. And once the winter’s frigid weather passes, we sort of forget the fact that you could hang meat in our home.
It’s like anything else that’s not a life-threatening problem. You make the best of it. We plug in a space heater, add a blanket to the bed, keep out of the coldest parts of the house and try to be grateful for what we have.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about the past few days as I curse my drafty old house, to borrow a line from Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.’’
Cold or not, I do have a home to live in, two cars parked at the curb, a fridge full of food and a closet full of clothes. I go to work every day and even enjoy what I do for a living. No one in my immediate family suffers from serious illness. That’s plenty to help me realize that a cold house in not the end of the world.
After all, some folks live in unheated homes, dependent on space heaters, loads of blankets and winter clothing to get them through the night. Others don’t have a home and must live in their cars or make their way on the streets, risking frostbite or worse when the brutal Chicago winter kicks in.
PADS and other homeless shelters in our area do their best to help. Together We Cope, an excellent social service agency in Tinley Park, also serves in endless ways, including a foot pantry, financial assistance, clothing, back-to-school assistance and the adopt-a-child holiday program.
But what more could you and I be doing? Now’s the real time to ask. The fashionable time for these stories to appear is during the holidays, as various agencies, churches and community organizations strive to help the needy with meals, Christmas presents and other necessities.
But the need didn’t go away the day you took down your Christmas tree. People are still without work, struggling to make ends meet, in danger of losing their homes and so on.
It’s not that hard to lend a hand. There are plenty of food pantries in our area, including one run by the Evergreen Park, which provided Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to more than 160 families in the community. Call the pantry at 708-422-8776 for information of how to help.
In neighboring Oak Lawn, Pilgrim Faith Church runs a food pantry that serves Oak Lawn, Hometown, Worth, Burbank, Chicago Ridge and Alsip. Check out all the details about the pantry at www.pilgrimfaith.org.
South Suburban PADS is always in need of volunteers and donations. Plenty of information can be found at www.sspads.org.
There are plenty of other food pantries, social service agencies as well as churches and community organizations that pitch in to help the needy. Catholic Charities and Red Cross come to mind. Pick one. Find a way to help. Make it a 2015 goal. You’ll be glad that you did.