Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Heavenly Peace

While riding the bus into lower Manhattan one morning last week, I saw a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk.

He was leaning against a building at the corner of Greenwich and Morris Streets. There was a small cloth bag next to him, which I suppose carried all his worldly possessions, and he had a small piece of a Christmas tree propped up against the bag.

It was heart breaking to see that this man, who didn’t even have a roof over his head, was still determined to celebrate Christmas in some small way.

I think of all the complaining I do, how I moan about the pressure of the holidays, but this poor man had managed to find some joy in this world.

If you’re still searching for the true meaning of Christmas, look no further.

I recalled yet another image from A Christmas Carol, where Marley’s ghost forces Scrooge to look down at the street below to a young woman and her child shivering in the cold.

The pair were surrounded by wandering spirits, people like Marley, who had failed to help their fellow human beings in life, and so were condemned to walk the earth after death pleading mutely on behalf of those in need to a heartless, uncaring world.

It was hard not to think of those wandering spirits as I looked at this homeless man. The spot where he had chosen to sit is actually very close to one of the few bright spots of my morning commute.

There’s an office building on the next block where someone on one of the upper floors has set up two large teddy bears by the window.

These things are huge—I’d swear one of them is almost man-sized. Their backs face the window, but I like to keep an eye out for them as I ride to work. They remind me that there’s still some pockets of tenderness in this city.

But obviously we don’t have enough tenderness; the wandering spirits are still crying out to us.

It’s seems so wrong that stuffed animals have a warm place to stay, while just a short distance away a human being is forced to live on the sidewalk.

People may complain about the homeless, but it’s important to remember that the very first Christmas in Bethlehem began with a homeless family.

We should remember that as we sit down to have dinner with our loved ones today. We should think of people like that man I saw and imagine what it would be like to trade places with him.

The wandering spirits had no voices, but we do. And it’s time for us to speak out, loud and clear.

Merry Christmas and may God bless us, every one.


Ron said...

And yet, another touching, heartfelt and insightful post, Rob!

Beautifully written!

This post reminded me of a homeless gentleman I see almost daily around where I live. And like you, I am always touched by his ability to find joy in this world. I will often see him sharing his food (which is given to him from people on the streets) with the pigeons. Even though he's hungry and could eat it all, he still shares his food.

"The wandering spirits had no voices, but we do. And it’s time for us to speak out, loud and clear."


Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, buddy!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron. That fellow you describe sounds like quite a gentleman, despite his desperate situation.

Some of our one percent types could learn a lot from a guy like that.

Hope you had a great Christmas, too, buddy!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Very well said. We get so used to passing these people without a glance - or worse, making sure not to make eye contact for fear of being spoken to. It's impossible to give to all of them, all the time, because there are too many, and in any case, the genuine homeless have now been put at a disadvantage here in England by professional beggars.

I read once how a pro beggar in London can take home nearly £200 a day in a prime spot, and with most of the population earning considerably less than that, and many families being on the breadline themselves, it doesn't encourage charity.

However, I do make sure to donate to the people who help those genuinely in need: soup kitchens, family projects, hot dinner providers and so on. Not just at Christmas, but all year round.

Rob K said...

It's good to donate wisely, Jay, so I'm glad you're taking the right approach here. And doing all year round is even better!