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John Eggers: What warms your heart?

It was 40 degrees in my office today. I hesitated to turn up the heat because I had plenty of work to keep me warm. So what brings you warmth during this stretch of cold, I mean cold, cold weather?

There was an episode of “Prairie Home Companion” where Garrison Keillor told about how the residents of Lake Wobegon stayed warm by carrying around rocks. “Boy, that rock sure kept me warm today. I had to take off my jacket,” someone would say.

The people of Lake Wobegon might think it’s a good idea to carry around rocks but I’m not sure it would work in the real world. I helped to clear some rock from a field this fall and I wouldn’t recommend it for keeping warm -- getting blisters and hurting your back, yes. If you would like to try it, I have a few I could loan out.

My wife wanted me to change some light bulbs on this last day of the year, so I guess everything is back to normal. Light bulbs I can do, fixing some sort of switch on our soft water heater, which needed to be repaired a few days ago is a little beyond my handyman skills.

I suppose one thing we can put on our list of things that warm our hearts is the ability to do the little things that please someone. As we head into a new year, think about all of the little things you may have done for someone. If you have done your share, that goodness in your soul produces a lot of heat.

It has been our tradition in my family to open our gifts on New Year’s Eve. The older you get the more you know that the answer to the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” is, “Nothing, I have everything I need.”

This is true for many of us.

I told my wife to get me some cans of peaches. I love canned peaches and I especially love them cold. Gifts don’t have to be expensive things; just the fact that someone remembered you is enough to warm anyone’s heart.

I recently ran into some friends I had not seen for a while. Steve was the first to notice me and said, “Hi, John.” To be noticed by someone is what many people look for. To go unnoticed for any length of time is painful and cold. When we go out of the way to notice someone this small deed brings a lot of warmth to the receiver and the giver.

I am teaching an online class to some students at the high school. The purpose of the class is to help motivate students to stay in school and graduate. To me, it’s a very rewarding class in spite of the fact that it takes a lot of preparation time. The upside is that if the class helps to keep the students in school and they eventually graduate, I will feel that I have had a little something to do with their success.

You and I have always been looking for ways to make a difference in someone’s life. After so many years of working with people in many different areas, making a difference seems to be on every person’s bucket list. It brings fulfillment to our lives and warms our heart.

We have this bunny rabbit in our yard this winter. He/she is a survivor. With two dogs around I am amazed it can find a place to hide. Of course, what keeps it around is that I always throw out sunflower seeds.

I have told you this before but one of the best things about winter is just looking out your window and observing nature. My fellow columnist Blane Klemek reminds us of the wonders of the wilderness every Sunday. Watching that furry bunny, those pesky squirrels and those innocent nuthatches out our window generates enough heat in us to stay put without having to carry those heavy rocks around.

The question I want to have answered is, “Can ice fishing keep you warm?” Pushing your fish house on to the ice is heat producing. Drilling the hole is heat producing. Catching fish will help you forget about the cold. But if you have a fish house with no insulation and just a little heater and it’s 20 below outside and 0 on the inside, I’m sorry, I’m staying in the house and watching the birds on the outside.

After nearly six weeks of frozen water, I have yet to go ice fishing. My brother who lives in Excelsior has been out almost every day in his homemade fish house where he said he had to open the doors because it got so hot inside. Of course he is catching fish, too, and this keeps him plenty warm.

The point I am trying to make is that there are many ways to warm one’s heart this time of year when the question “Just how cold is it?” meanders into our conversation about every 15 minutes. I have been reading Ken Follett novels and they are good to snuggle up to especially when the Nazi secret service agent is foiled again and again.

Eating out with friends brings warmth. Phoning a friend, sending a note, reading the Pioneer with a cup of hot chocolate near by, watching a bowl game, and playing with dogs bring warmth. Oh, and let’s not forget, shoveling snow.

This winter could go on record as the coldest ever, so you better use that imagination the Creator gave you to find ways to keep warm besides just putting another log on the fire. No, going to Florida doesn’t count.

I wish you lots of warmth during 2014 and if worse comes to worse, I have some rocks for you.

JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.