I would like to share a story, with you. It about a special Christmas, I experienced. It was several years ago.
It was a hard year, in my life. I had just gone through a divorce. I was having a terrifically hard time, adjusting to being apart from my family. The holiday season was fast, approaching. I didn't feel able to be around anybody; especially ,during the holidays. I felt I needed to get away, and be alone, for awhile.
I caught a Greyhound bus, and I left my hometown, early one morning. I cried, as the bus pulled away from the station. I didn't want to go. I felt I had too. It would be my first holiday season away from my kids. It was very hard for me to leave.
I arrived in Clearwater, Florida, a day later. I had nowhere to go upon arriving there. I just showed up, and started walking the streets. All I knew, was I had to find a way to survive. Living on the streets was going to be tough. I was all on my own, now.
A few days later, I attended a free Thanksgiving meal, at a neighborhood church. It was absolutely, wonderful. What a loving, group of people they were. They fed us like kings. They served us as if we were VIP guests. The adults donated, and cooked the food, and the children served us. They dressed up, like little, servers, and they served us, far better than most restaurant servers, I've met, was a heart touching experience. One I'll never forget. It started out to be a very, sad, day for me. But their love, and concern, for us, made things seem a whole lot better.
I survived the next few weeks, dreading the day that was soon to come: Christmas! I didn't even want to think about it, but there was no avoiding it. It was coming, and I was going to have to go through it. Sure enough, it arrived, right on schedule.
As you know, the whole nation shuts down, for Christmas. Everyone wants to be with their families. I had absolutely nowhere to go that day. I was along, by myself, along with many others.
There was nowhere to go eat. All the restaurants were closed. Even the "Soup Kitchen", a place where homeless people go to eat, was closed; every convenient store closed. For those without a "home", there was absolutely no place to go; nothing to eat.
I had heard that many homeless people hang out at a place called "Station Square", on the holidays. They go there, hoping some loving, caring soul might stop by to give them something to eat or perhaps, even, a Christmas gift, of some sort. I decided to go there, myself, since I had nothing better to do. At least I would have some company. Maybe someone would come by and give us all something. What did I have to lose? I figured I might as well go.
As I walked up to the square, I saw dozens of homeless people gathered around the fountain, shivering from the cold. It was an unusually cold evening, with bone chilling winds. Most of those, that were there, didn't even have a coat, to wear. Most of us, "Floridians", are used to walking around in short -sleeved shirts, and a pair of shorts, most of the year. Many, that were there, were not wearing much more than that. Still, regardless of the cold, they waited, hour on hour, for someone to come along.
I asked those that had been waiting there awhile, had anybody come by to see them, yet. They all answered, "No." I could hardly believe it. It was already late in the evening, and not a single soul, out of the whole city, cared enough to come visit those who were less fortunate, in our city. They were starting to lose hope that anybody was coming. I sat with them a couple more hours. Nobody came. Our hopes began to diminish, even more. Some got up and left, carrying their sleeping bags, and blankets behind them. I was feeling so disappointed in the world, at that moment. I couldn't believe people could be so uncaring. I didn't care, so much, about myself having to go without. I worried more about the others that were there. I felt sad, for them.
I couldn't help to think of all the tens of thousands of people, in our county, who were sitting at home with their families; exchanging, car loads, of expensive gifts, with one another; gorging themselves sick with delicious, holiday foods, candies, and drink; laughing, and having a merry old time; singing Christmas Carols about the love of Christ. Seldom did they gave any thought or express concern for those who were all alone, in the world; those who had nowhere to go, that "Christmas" day; those who had nothing to eat, at all; those who didn't even have warm clothes to wear, to shield them from the cold.
Where are all the "Christians," I thought to myself. How can they not care, for the suffering? How can they be so mindless of those hurting? Where are all the churches that preach love and compassion, for our fellow man, from their pulpits, every Sunday? Where was anybody? I was disappointed, with all, humankind. On top of all the sadness I was already feeling, in my personal life, this just made it worse. It made us all feel even more, than we already did. that nobody cared for us, or believed in us.
It was getting really late. Almost all hope of anyone coming, to see us, was gone. Most, that were there, began picking up their sleeping gear, and prepared to head off to find a place to sleep for the night. There wasn't much more we could do. Our "Christmas" was over. We just wanted to go to sleep, now, and not think about it anymore.
The last of our group, myself included, started walking away from the square. .our heads hung low. Just as we began to walk away, we saw an old, top-down, convertible, jeep, truck come speeding up towards us. We were still standing in the park. The jeep was heading right towards us. rolling across the grass, in the park. Personal vehicles are not allowed to be driving around in the park. Obviously, this person was unaware of that rule or maybe, they just didn't care.
The jeep came to, almost, a screeching, halt! A very, young man jumped out of it. He was, probably, no more than twenty years old. He shouted out to us, "Please come back! Don't leave! I have food and gifts for you all! Our spirits were instantly lifted. We all headed back towards him, immediately. He began apologizing, profusely. I'm sorry I am late getting here, for you. I had to work, and my job kept me far later than I had expected they would. I had to run home, and heat all the food up, and get everything ready for you, and the time just got away from me. I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting." He began unloading all the food he had brought, from the back of his raggedy, old jeep. He set up a couple of card tables, to put the food on. Everything he had brought was home-made, and freshly cooked. It smelled so good! We were all so hungry.
Suddenly, he stopped setting up the food, and said, Oh, no! I forgot the green bean casserole. I can't believe I did that; I was in such a hurry to get here, for you. I left the beans sitting on the table. Darn it! I wanted this meal to be perfect for you. I'm sorry. I have plenty of everything else. I just hate that I forgot the beans. We assured him we were fine without them. He had brought a dozen other dishes. He served every one of us. He filled our cups with eggnog, and hot coffee, and even provided us with soda, and fruit punch, for those who desired it. After feeding us, until our bellies were full, he started handing out our Christmas gifts. He had bought every one of us a "beanie" cap, to keep our heads and ears warm. He bought us each a pair of gloves, and gave us all warm socks. He apologized, again, that he could not afford to give more.
I sat there watching all the homeless people receiving their gifts. Many of them had not received a gift, of any kind, for any reason, in many years. They were all so appreciative, of this young man's sacrifice. I was most impressed, by the fact, that he was so young, yet so caring, and generous. I'm sure he had very little money. I could tell by the jeep that he drove and the shoes that he wore. Yet, still, he was there, giving all he could.
You know, we would've been thankful for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We didn't expect all that he gave. It wasn't the quality, or the quantity, of the food that mattered to us. What mattered most to us, is that someone cared enough to come bring it to us. That is what we needed more than anything else, that Christmas Eve, just to know, that someone cared for us, that we were not alone, in the world.
The story does not end there. Another amazing thing happened. While the young man was feeding us, a very simple, pretty, young woman came walking up to us, carrying a guitar. She wished us all a Merry Christmas, and then introduced herself. She then asked us, if it would be alight, if she played and sang some Christmas carols, for us. She apologized that she had nothing more to give us, except her ability to play her guitar, and sing. It reminds me of "The Little Drummer Boy." Of course, we accepted her gift, and asked her to sing. When she began to sing, I could not believe my ears. I had never heard such a beautiful voice in all my life! She sang like an Angel. It was like she, and the young man, were both sent from heaven, above; neither claimed to know the other. It turned out to be one of the most wonderful Christmas's I experienced.
The day started out, very, very sad for me. But the love of a young man, and a young woman, somehow let me know, that everything was going to be ok. There was still hope in the world. These two young people confirmed it.
After about an hour, the young man loaded the card tables and all the dirty dishes back into his rusty, old jeep. He apologized that he had to go, quickly. He explained his wife, and young children were waiting at home for him, to have their Christmas. He explained to his wife, that he needed to come see us, first, before it got too late. He promised her he would rush back home, as soon as he could. What an incredible young man!
I would like to challenge everyone out there, reading this Christmas message, to be a Christmas "Angel" to someone who is having a hard time, this year. Preferably, someone you do not know. Even if you do not have any money, you can do something to touch someone's heart, and give them hope. Whatever your talents or abilities might be, please use them to bless someone, this year. Isn't that what Christmas is supposed to be all about? Ask yourself. If He were here, for Christmas, what would Jesus - Yahshua - do? I'll bet you'd find Him down at Station Square, ministering to the needy. Shouldn't we do the same, on the day we claim to honor and remember His birth?
M Adam Roberts lives and writes from Clearwater, Florida.
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