In September of 1971, when others I knew had just started college, I was in a small town in northern Wisconsin with two other young people. Why were we there? We had volunteered to take a year and go to a community to spend eight hours per day spreading the message of Jesus Christ and His love for us. We were not sent to obscure places in Africa or Asia but rather to normal little towns in the USA.
I worked the majority of that year in a bakery making $1.25 per hour, twenty hours per week. The other guy in the team worked at the same place making the same amount of money. Together we made $50 per week. The third member of our team had a better job and made about $50 per week.
As the harsh winter settled in and the bills to heat our humble abode climbed, we had to cut back and cut back and cut back some more. I vividly recall living for weeks eating only day old pastry at the bakery I worked at and either mac and cheese or hot dogs for supper. We had no money so we had to be content with such as we had (and could afford). We set the thermostat at 60 degrees, quit driving the car (walking everywhere) and dealt with the reality of the situation.
Surrounded by deep snow, bitter cold and people uninterested in what we had to say, the three months of winter were a test of our resolve and willingness to remain faithful no matter what. With no television or other forms of entertainment, we were forced into a situation where we entertained ourselves with laughter and making up silly songs on our guitars.
In due time the winter broke and the warm spring sun melted the snow and brought the population out of their caves into the restaurants and parks. Within a month of being buried under mountains of snow and enduring negative 50 degree wind chills, we were basking in 50 degree weather thinking it was more like 80.
Looking back on that year of my life 40 years ago, it is hard for me to believe I had the patience to endure the hardships I faced. It was not pleasant living on a diet of doughnuts, hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, but we did not starve. It was not easy living in a house so cold we wore multiple layers all the time, but we did not freeze to death. It was not fun to live in such isolation for those months, but we made it.
We survived the tough stretch and amazingly once the weather broke we saw amazing things happen and were able to reach out and help many young people come to know Jesus better and receive instruction from the Word of God in living for Him. The year ended up being a spectacular time of learning and spiritual growth, even while surviving a winter I would never want to go through again.
The winters of northern Wisconsin are similar to the long, dark and bitterly cold winters of Minnesota. I understand your description perfectly. Yes, after being in such extreme cold, when the mercury even pokes above zero, you feel like summer is right around the corner!
Every winter of my life, except for 1978-1981, has been spent in Minnesota. I know all about cabin fever and SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I know what it is like to feel the inside of your nose shrivel up due to the cold. I have had skin frozen and understand the cold that is so intense it creeps into your bones and causes pain.
However, I also know that there are few places in this world where spring is not more welcome. The promise of spring allows us to endure the winter. Up here, we speak of spring often, during the winter. Yet, even as severe as winter is, we also seek to find the beauty of winter... and there is beauty in it, if we will only take the time to look for it. When we do, we come to appreciate the winter. Okay, so we wish the windchill were -20 instead of -50 but you know what I mean! There's nothing like a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter's day. It is funny how much you appreciate such a simple thing, isn't it?
Winter of '77-'78-one of the toughest I remember. Coming back home from Billings , Mt -what normally took about 4 hours , was at leats twice that. Pulled over in a whiteout-rather quite fridgid. Yet the snow sure is pretty-that's for sure. Thank you for sharing of enduring the tough times and God Bless you richly! Dave