My colleague Elise Schmelzer wrote a beautiful Christmas Eve story about a man at the Salvation Army who is helping people at the organization because it once helped him.
In the story, she mentioned a woman who was given the chance to choose a warm coat from the coat room. She couldn’t decide between a tan coat, which she thought would be warmer, and a red coat, which would add some color to her daily life.
The man, John Potter, told her to take them both.
I have never been homeless. Never had to couch surf. Never had to sleep in my car, or in the marsh next to the pond at Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park.
By any measure, I have led a life of privilege — some would say extremely so.
So I asked Santa this fall for a real winter coat, not something from a women’s catalog that doesn’t factor in the cold after dark at 7,220 feet in October or November or December.
The coats in the catalogs I get are fine for strolling down Fifth Avenue, perhaps, but not so fine when the Border War turns from mist to drenching rain to sideways snow.
Because I don’t “do” sports, I don’t have any outdoor clothing to keep me warm.
I found a coat from a well-known sporting goods clothing manufacturer. It was close to the color I wanted, and seemed to check all the boxes.
Santa delivered. The coat is gorgeous and it fits and it has this space-age shiny silver stuff inside that is supposed to turn my body heat into warmth. Lord knows I have lots of extra “body heat.”
I spent an evening last week in my two coat closets that were jammed to the brim. I grabbed a full-length wool dress coat and a sharp suede “car coat” with knit collar and cuffs — a family heirloom and belonged to my Nana. It came from Hudson’s Department Store and I know it cost a fortune.
It’s heavy, and although not really practical for wet weather, would keep someone very warm.
I also grabbed a ton of other coats of varying descriptions.
I was very tempted to grab old NFL coats as well, but in my family, you never know when a team might be “in” again.
That’s the case with the never-worn, fur-lined Browns sweatshirt. If #17 goes to the Browns in April, then I’m a Browns fan.
And there is the continuing problem of what to do about the cousin, who most think is at the top of the list for a head coaching job. If he goes to yet another NFC North team, like one that starts with “C,” or his hometown team that starts with “D,” I just don’t know how I’ll deal.
In any case, I took the giant load of coats (let’s be real — every coat I own is giant), and on a 14-degree morning laden with thick snow fog, I pulled up to a place that I knew sheltered homeless women.
I rang the door bell, and asked the woman who answered to please come get them from the stoop. Before I pulled away, I saw that she was there.
And as I looked at the pile of coats in her arms, I noticed something.
One was tan. Another, red.