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The kindness of strangers


As St. Albert enters a rare Arctic freeze along with most of the province, some of us are no doubt cursing our luck for living where it hurts to breathe the outside air and where frostbite can set in in minutes. Others are making the best of the situation by helping ease the cold-weather burden on their family, friends and fellow community members.

What a year for weather! It was too dry at the beginning of the summer, then too wet by the end. Fall was too short, and now this winter is too cold to be outside for longer than a few minutes at a time.

Most of us woke up Tuesday morning to temperatures of -35 C with a wind chill of -45 C. It was so cold, it knocked out some school bus routes. It was Northwest Territories-level cold out there, folks, and even if you dressed appropriately, it was a miserable day.

You're not alone if your car (or limbs) groaned painfully to life that morning and creaked for your whole ride in to work, or just refused to get going at all. Even worse if your furnace conked out or your pipes froze.

Yes, it's been a week for staying inside, preferably wrapped in a blanket with the heat going. It's weather like this that has us saying a prayer of thanks for Alberta oil and gas, and looking longingly at the forecast for places like Halifax (a balmy -1 C on Tuesday morning) or Vancouver (-7 C).

If there's one thing bad weather does well, though, it's shining a light on the good and selfless people all around us. While many of us didn't or couldn't get outside, others braved the cold willingly with warm hearts to help their neighbours boost a car, shovel their walk, put down salt or fix something that broke in the cold.

Take our local Grandin neighbourhood, for instance, where leadership students at Sir George Simpson Junior High School are offering to help residents clear off the snow that's fallen in recent weeks.

Or think about Doug Murray's mom, Gerrilee, who pulled over on Hebert Road this week to give her gloves to an elderly woman who didn't have any.

In the same spirit of giving back, we have neighbours citywide snowblowing each other's walkways, de-icing each other's driveways and generally making St. Albert a wonderful place to be.

Such warmth and kindness is enough to take the chill off of even the coldest day, and you can read about some of these random acts of kindness on the front page of this newspaper.

Once the weather boomerangs back up to the -5 C range (yes, by this time next week we could almost be in the pluses), this cold will be unpleasant history and we can all return to our normal lives. But the memories of how perfect strangers reached out helping hands on one of the coldest weeks of winter will stay with us much longer.