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.