The Cold Within

The Cold Within

Several years ago, I heard this very powerful poem. During this special time of year, I hope we can all find someone to give “our stick of precious wood.”

I have had the chance to review countless pages of research on what touches, affects, and changes people. Without reservation, the most powerful tool is service. Service builds empathy and the more empathy a person has the better they will be able to function as part of a community.

At Maple Lake we emphasize service through many activities. As our students build empathy, they grow and mature and also gain greater social skills.

Additionally, we need to be willing to accept all people. It does not matter what they look like on the outside it is what people have on the inside that counts. In my experience, the majority of people are good and have good hearts. Race, religion, creed, sexual preference and other differences will always be present when there are two or more people in the world.

If we are going to survive the coming years, we must learn to accept everyone and be willing to offer a helping hand or yes a “stick of wood” to others who are in need.

coldtreesThis poem was written by James Patrick Kinney who was an activist in the civil rights movement.

His most famous poem, “The Cold Within”, is simple, straightforward and powerful, which, as you’ll soon learn, also describes the man who wrote it. When you understand the man, you’ll see why he wrote the poem. First, the story, then the poem. Thanks to Timothy Kinney, James Kinney’s son, we have insight into the man behind this now-classic poem:

The story I’m about to tell you is from my memory of the story that my mother told of that time, so the details can be regarded with reasonable suspicion, but I believe it to be generally accurate. 

When I was a young boy we lived in Cheviot, Ohio, which is a township on the west side of Cincinnati, Ohio. There was still a law on the books there that a black person was not allowed on the streets of the city after dark. This was during of the civil rights movement, and my father and a group of men from his church felt that this was an outrage, so they approached the City Council to have the law abolished.

They were told that, since there were no black families in Cheviot, any black person on the streets after dark was obviously up to no good, so the law would remain. My father’s group found a family of black activists who were willing to move to Cheviot. They helped them move in and tried to make them feel at home. Then they approached the City Council again and said “Under the new circumstances, the law must be changed.”

The City Council changed the law, but they were not very happy about it. My father was really unhappy with the community and the way they reacted to the change, so he pulled out and shared with the community a poem he had written during the early years of the civil right movement; it was “The Cold Within”, a parable about the things that separate us and how the coldness in men’s hearts is a kind of death. The message was so powerful, the poem took on a life of its own.

cold_within fire