The Cold Within – a poem to prick our hearts

What an early morning gift from my friend Michelle, whose friendship warms my life.

The Cold Within

~by James Patrick Kinney~

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In black and bitter cold
Each possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back
For on the faces around the fire
She noticed one was black.
The next man looking ‘cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.
And the last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain,
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.
The logs held tight in death’s stilled hands
Was proof of human sin,
They didn’t die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.

May our hearts be warm and our actions warm the hearts and lives of others – family, friends and strangers alike.


8 thoughts on “The Cold Within – a poem to prick our hearts

  1. powerful poem! goes with Nouwen's devo today on who is my neighbour:

    “”Which, … do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the bandits' hands?” The neighbour, Jesus makes clear… is the Samaritan who crossed the road, “bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, … lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him.” My neighbour is the one who crosses the road for me!”

    “We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.”

    There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.


  2. Thanks for sharing this Cheryl. And how easy would it have been for one person to just make the first move and toss in their stick of wood. Sometimes that's all it takes, and the others then follow in actions, and heart.


  3. Joanne,

    You're so right. Just one person taking the initiative, making the first move and like Nouwen said, re: Sita's comment, “crossing the road”.

    What a different story we can tell, read and share. What a different legacy.


  4. Powerful reminder, lovely friend, of the power to hurt or heal. May our hearts always open to the other. When in doubt, err on the side of love. xo


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