A few days ago, I came across a beautiful poem written by James Patrick Kinney. He was an American poet who wrote the poem in 1960 during the African –American Civil Rights Movement. Even though this poem was written many years ago, it still speaks profound volumes to the one who reads it today. It made me reflect on each of its words too and do some soul searching to gain greater insights from it.
The Cold Within
Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces round the fire
He 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.
The last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without
They died from the cold within.
By James Patrick Kinney
This poem reminds me of the instances of my life where I held back my log too, and I knew I resembled most of the characters in the poem who for different reasons stopped themselves from helping others.
I held back my log of helping hand and comforting words to someone in need, my log of encouragement & ideas for someone to go forward, my log of patience in understanding others, my log of a forgiving heart, my log of selfless love & empathy, my log of time I could give to someone, my log of just a listening ear, my log of compassion, gratitude and esteem for others and my log of generously giving away myself to serve the world in need.
Yes! I held back my log thinking that giving it away would probably rob me of my time, my comfort, my ego, my pride, my convenience, my ideas, my priorities and my gains. I chose to be self-centred under the label of being too busy.
Sometimes, I held back my log because I wasn’t willing to let go of my hurts and offer forgiveness, I wasn’t willing to selflessly pour out my life and I wasn’t willing to be kind and nicer to those who weren’t good, loving and helpful to me.
While I was only focusing, complaining and feeling that others are holding back their logs, I failed to see that I held back my logs too.
But, as I reflect on the beautiful yet powerful message the poet has to offer, I realized that God’s dream for the world is exactly the same. He demonstrated His agape love by giving away His log “His precious son Jesus” for you and me even though we didn’t deserve His mercy and love. He had innumerable reasons to hold back His log, but He didn’t want any one of us to perish in the bitter cold of enemy’s snare.
Today, His same love calls out to you and me to reflect His sacrifice by selflessly giving away our tightly held logs through His love to save others, to love others, to bless others, to accept others, to include others, to forgive others, to help others, to understand others, to lift others and to value others as Jesus did irrespective of people’s caste, colour, background, socio-economic status, intellect, personality or character.
Friend, His call on our lives isn’t for us just to be saved, but it is for us to be His ambassadors of love, peace, justice and principles to the world.
Giving of our logs is a grander opportunity for us which in return will enrich our souls too. And it is the way His dream for the world will keep fulfilling, the fire of humanity will keep burning, the perishing souls will keep being saved, and none of us will die from the “cold” within; but surely; we will live by His love and warmth within.