Wise Words

"Wait on the Lord, be strong and of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart...wait on the Lord. Psalms 27:14

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

There is no ME in Christmas

Many, many years ago, back when I was young, single and, I admit it, a little full of myself, I remember my mom asking me to go to the grocery store to get some last minute food items on Christmas Eve, before we left to go to our church's candlelight service and before the store closed. Since the store was just a few blocks away, I said, "Sure, I'd be happy to".

When I was in the store, I saw a sign that said "Full Whole Chicken Meal: Whole roasted chicken, choice of 3 quart sides & a package of rolls - $4.99!" Wow! What a deal. Too bad, I didn't know anyone or have the need myself for that because that store had some really yummy stuff in their deli section. No, best just get that stuff mom wanted and go back to her house.

Well I stopped at the stop light and wouldn't you know it, right there on the median, next to the grocery store, was a very popular place for panhandlers. You know, the people we all tend to avoid for the most part. Standing there that late afternoon were two men in worn winter wear, grubby, unshaven, kind of standing together to keep warm against the wind. In Central Texas it doesn't often get COLD-cold, but I remember that this Christmas Eve it was nippy and the wind had a strong bite to it, as well as being quite strong and gusty. There were absolutely zero other cars around that particular afternoon. I had also been the only person in the grocery store – aside from the workers. It was just me and those panhandlers there at the light.

I can still remember the face of the man who caught my eye and he offered me a genuine, if somewhat shamed, smile. His dirty blonde hair ruffled in the breeze under a well worn knit cap. His fingers looked stiff and cold as he held a small sign against the battering of the wind.

The light turned green and I drove off, on my way to drop the requested food off at my mom's. For some reason I just couldn't get those two men off my mind. I looked at the clock at my mom's and only a few minutes had passed, a few minutes closer to when the grocery store closed and when we had to leave to go to the candlelight service. I had an ever increasing NEED to go back to the store and get them that meal. Really, cost of the meal and a couple of drinks to go with it were negligible compared to the urgency I had burning inside of me to provide a meal for those men.

I told my mom what I felt I needed to do and with her blessing to go ahead, I rushed back those few blocks to the store. The men were still there when I drove by. I hurried to the deli area and said, "I'll take one of the Chicken Meals, please". I got the meal with the sides, plus a couple of bottled cokes for them to drink.

I walked out of the store, feeling so full of warmth and happiness to be doing this – a first for sure – that I felt like I might burst from the inside out. As I drove up to that street corner, that bubble of good feelings deflated. They were no longer there. In the few minutes I was in the store, they had left. It was now 5:55.

I wanted to cry. The feeling of utter sadness and disappointment washed over me and I sat there through a green light, still the only car on the road, wondering what to do now. I had to get back to my mom's but I HAD to find those men!

So I slowly canvassed the cross roads and after a few minutes of increasing sadness from failing to find those men, I came upon a partially sheltered bus stop, just about 100 feet from the original median spot where the men had been standing. There were two men sitting there, huddled against the increased gusts of chilly wind.

I stopped right there in the middle of the street and rolled down my passenger window and asked them if they were the men that had been standing there at the median. The blonde man walked over and said, "Yes, ma'am, we were standing there". I breathed a huge sigh of relief and said, "I have been looking all over for y'all!" and handed over the bag with the food and drinks.

"Here, these are for y'all. I just really felt a need to get this for y'all...oh shoot! I'm so sorry, I forgot forks and stuff for y'all to eat with!" I started tearing up and the man smiled and said, "Well, that's ok, ma'am, we're used to not having things like that to eat with. We really thank you for thinking of us and giving this to us. Really, thank you, ma'am."

He and the smaller, brunette man attacked the chicken with gusto and then, mid bite, the smaller man looked up at me and nodded his head and offered a shy smile. I told them that I hoped that they did have a Merry Christmas and the blonde man paused and said, "Ma'am, this is the only Christmas we're getting this year, thanks to you. This is our Christmas."

I nodded and smiled and drove away before the tears spilled over and down my face. I couldn't contain them as I cried in my car back to my mom's and sat in the driveway, trying to compose myself before going inside.

Here was I, a bit spoiled for a middle class young adult, truly realizing with crystal clarity that there was MORE to life out there than what I want and what's important in MY world. Oh, I wasn't a selfish person, just one who was more secure in making sure my own needs and wants were fulfilled, and I had been brought to my proverbial knees with emotion over helping someone less fortunate than me. I felt so small and insignificant in light of the magnitude of doing for others and giving these men the only Christmas they were going to have that year.

I never saw them again at that corner, but every single Christmas they are at the forefront of my memory of the heaviness and sadness at realizing the hardship of the life of others and the fullness and joy of how it felt to think of others before myself and provide for them and I have tried to live that giving experience ever since.

That truly was the most moving Christmas experience I've ever had, all thanks to two homeless men on a median in the middle of the street on Christmas Eve.

After all, it really isn't about me, especially at Christmas time.

1 comment:

emanuel abigail said...

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