The holiday time has so many different meanings to so many different people. Christmas has always been a time of magic. I’m Christian and I do believe a baby named Jesus came to show the world peace and love and kindness and especially being non-judgmental.
You don’t need to be a Christian to appreciate the teachings of this man. It’s no different than I appreciate, respect, and even corporate some of the practices of Buddha, Brahman, or Yahweh. I believe you can learn from everyone and one should always respect the beliefs of others.
Holiday time can be filled with wonderment but also with mixed emotions especially when people recently lost someone or we relive an anniversary that hurts. It’s so important to remember everyone has a different viewpoint and set of experiences at the end of every year.
I remember a few years ago losing my mother, who was the love of my life and truly one of the only people who has ever understood me. She loved Christmas and everything about it. I knew the first one without her would be really tough so I “sat it out.”
My father and I did our own thing that year and little did I know it would be one of the greatest Christmases of all time. It would honor my mother but also put into effect what Christmas should really be about.
I had some gift certificates to Outback Steakhouse given to me by a wonderful friend. I went out on Christmas Eve and my sweatpants and hoodie looking for some friends on the street to take to dinner. No one wanted to go. Some asked me to bring them a steak back because they were too comfortable on the park bench. One man just asked for the cash. Other people just asked me if I had any beer. I was frustrated, I was getting really angry and the whole intention behind my Christmas was becoming quickly tainted.
I gave up. I walked back to where my car was parked, got in, and drove down 2nd avenue to get on the freeway and go home. As I glanced to my left there was an alleyway with dumpsters and a man mid-waist submerged into one of them. There was a grocery cart parked next to the garbage and I just shook my head saying, “Nope. Move on, go home Goldy”.
As I got onto the interstate something came over me. A vision of a small child in a manger with terrified parents and a mother who I’m sure was very confused. That young couple must have been scared out of their minds and wondered what the future would hold for their new family. Would their baby be killed? Would they? Where would they go? Where would they find food or what would be their next move?
That child would go up to set an example of basically how human beings should treat others. Reflecting on this I decided to whip a U-turn and go back and visit the man in the alleyway.
I parked just outside of the entrance and gently walked towards him saying, “excuse me sir it’s Christmas Eve and I have an extra dinner pass with me, would you…”
I didn’t even get a chance to tell him where or when we would be going before he climbed out of the trash with his hands in the air looking at that late-night star saying “thank you, Jesus! Thank you Jesus for sending me an angel and a white one at that!”
He was beside himself. He was hungry and he was looking for food and cans in that dumpster to turn in for some revenue. He was cold and his only concern was would his bag of cans be allowed in the trunk of my car. I opened the back, he loaded in his treasures, and off we went to the Outback. He made sure I clicked my seatbelt because he said he wanted his Blondie safe.
On the way to our restaurant, this man began to tell me his story of how he became homeless. He told me how he watched both of his parents be shot and killed execution-style right in front of his face as a small child. His twin brother was also shot by a gang banger for his shoes. He shared his story of moving to Nashville and his love for being a janitor for a reputable man in town with many properties.
I would learn his boss was the same generous man who used to let me shoot photographs in his vacant venues when I first also got to Nashville and had no studio to use. I always wondered what happened to Ed.
My new friend explained that Ed passed away and he lost not only his job but he lost a great friend and fell into a downward spiral. Apparently, Ed was a special employer and knew how to work with someone’s strong points and talents. My new friend I met on Christmas Eve hadn’t found somebody or a job like that since.
We arrived at the steakhouse and he was so happy and overjoyed. It wasn’t really about the food for my guest rather just having someone to listen to him. I told him to order anything on the menu and he kept telling me just to order for him. Whatever I wanted to get him would be just fine. I insisted on flipping the menu around and him choosing himself. But each time he just said, “no Blondie, you order for me.”
Shortly after that he got up to use the restroom and was gone for quite a while. I got up to find him only to see a very frantic and confused man pacing the hallway unsure of which restroom to use. Outback has blokes and sheilas on the restroom doors and it was becoming clear why my new friend couldn’t get work. He couldn’t read. What a challenge that must be for him.
We finished our dinner and it was time to say goodbyes. I didn’t want to leave him out in the cold so I asked if there was a shelter that he knew of where he could stay. We stopped by one but ironically, no room at the end that night.
I plead with the woman at the desk asking her if she could just possibly find some vacant bed for my friend. She asked if I vouched for him and I said absolutely. I promised he would be no trouble at all. She and I exchanged a very knowing nod and I was on my way.
As I left the man ran after me knocking people out of his way so that he could open the door for me and hold it. He accompanied me to my car to make sure that I was safe and motioned after I got in to roll down the driver’s side window. He reached in to start to help me click my seatbelt because he said he wanted his Blondie safe.
I don’t know who was whose angel that night. As I mentioned it was one of the most beautiful, simplistic, and holy Christmas Eve’s I’ve ever experienced in my life. I will always remember the lessons I learned that night:
Don’t give up when you’re frustrated.
When everyone says no there will always be a yes.
Our world isn’t as segregated as we think, the media portrays it to be more than it is.
People want to believe in magic. Give them something to Believe in.
Always ask someone’s story he will be surprised at how they got to where they are.
Exercise kindness every chance you get.
This article is late, but it still applies. May beyond this holiday season be merry and bright for you. A New Year is upon us. Remember yesterday was just that. Your life will be full of brand new days and a new beginning.
What I do remember about the Bible is this.
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”