Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christmas Lesson

Retired and a lady of little monies, I was still able to catch the Christmas spirit.  No, I am not referring to the beautifully decorated tree in my apartment with hundreds of ornaments collected or homemade during the past 41 years. Nor was it the handmade wreath on my door or the myriads of snowmen decorating my apartment.  I am not even referring to the wooden figures that make  up my manger scene, placed on the floor in front of my beautifully lit tree  to celebrate Jesus' birth. 

I had made most of my Christmas cards, shopped for a special Christmas menu, and decorated the apartment. I still felt something missing from "Christmas" this year.  That is what spurred my decision to do something for someone else who I recently found out had his wallet stolen when he was riding the bus.  I made one more trip to the store and bought a nice steak, special potatoes and veggies and ice cream for dessert, along with some Croissant rolls.  and Pepsi; I was thinking of how to present it to the recipient and I decided to buy a store cloth bag and just say "Merry Christmas!' That's what I did after I paid for my purchases and left the store to catch the bus to my apartment building.

But, I am getting ahead of myself. . .this story is not about me or gifts I might be giving. It is about one I saw given to a perfect stranger today . . .

Riding the bus, one meets all sorts of people from all walks of life. The bus driver pulled up to a bus shelter, a regular stop near one of our hospitals. A lady was sitting there waiting and it looked like she might have been eating somethng from a container. The bus pulled up and she got quite flustered, trying to put everything into her bag on wheels and a cloth shopping bag. She had one more tiny bag that could have held her personal things -- like a purse. I guess I noticed these things because she took a long time boarding the bus and the driver finally said she had to leave and asked if she planned to get on board. . .

She finally got her things to the bottom step of the bus and we waited while I suppose she was looking for her bus pass. The driver told her to go ahead and sit down and she could show it later so the bus could get moving on its route and not be too late. Then, a young man somewhere in the 30-40 year range offered to help her get the things up the stairs and placed them next to me, near the front door of the bus. The lady entered the bus with a river of tears and uncontrollably sobbing came from deep in her throat as she sat in the first seat near the door, near me. I didn't know what to do . . . or if there was anything I could do to help.

The same young man, sitting aross from us, started talking to her so she could calm down. He told her that he would pray for her. I think everyone on the bus could hear her as if she was speaking through a microphone. He asked her -- her name -- but she was too busy wailing about how she should never have left England because homeless were treated better there so there were actually no homeless people there. I did not know if that was the truth but it wasn't relevant to us right now so I put the thought out of my mind temporarily.

Then she started talking about the Beatles and how sad it was some had died. Another young man that boarded the bus after her gave her something in her hand and as she looked at it, I could also see that it was a tiny wooden cross. She put that in her smallest bag which was serving as a purse and found her bus pass and directed it to the driver's attention, all the while her loud, wailing voice droned on and on.

As she continued the soleful litany of her hard luck and how she didn't know where she was even going to stay the night, the young man across from us listened attentively as if she mattered that day in his life. She continued this for another 15 minutes of travel time and the young man was so kind with his words, showing every passenger in the bus his Christmas gift of compassionate listening and sympathy. Her only "family" was the baby girl she had given up for adoption many years ago.

More sympathetic listening continued from this young man on the bus; the woman's voice seemed to be calmer and more in control as she continued her sad saga. Finally she reached her transfer point and the young man helped her down the bus stairs with her belongings. He told her again that he would pray for her. . .

The bus driver was patient with her when she instantly ran back on the bus and said "Wait!" she had "left something on the bus" which she hadn't but I think she just didn't want to leave the listening kindness of this young man. We all wished her a peaceful Christmas and I watched her stand on the sidewalk looking after the bus until we got out of sight. As the bus turned the corner, I wondered where the grace of God might take her that night . . . if she would find other people showing kindness, even if it was only because it was "Tis the season?"

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I told the young man that HE and his loving actions might have been MY best Christmas present this year -- the way he demonstrated God's love to a perfect stranger as he opened his gift of kindness to this lonely and distraught woman in front of all of us riding the city bus early on Christmas Eve.

It was a small sacrifice I was making to buy an aquaintance in my building a Chritmas supper. How much greater the gift of this young "angel" to this distraught lady and each of us that witnessed his kindness. I don't know where this lady is tonight, Christmas night, but I know where his heart is -- he gave it away for Chritmas to a complete stranger.


  1. Your story is both sad and beautyful: so sad, the story of that woman! Where is she now? Could she find a shelter for the night?What did she feel when she saw the bus driving away, and her, left on the side of the road, alone?..
    And the beauty is in this young man, of course.Sometimes, some people are like angels fallen from the sky.
    A very moving story for Christmas..

  2. Dear Paulie,
    What a Christmas Blessing you witnessed! The young man (and perhaps also the woman who stirred compassion) were your One Good Thing just before Christmas. And now you passed the blessing onto us. Thank You - it is now my One Good Thing, too.

  3. PS A fitting beginning to your new Blog!

  4. This was a beautiful story and one that blessed me as well as you.
    Its good to see you blogging again. And thank you for the Christmas Card. It is hanging on the side of my refrigerator.
    Mama Bear

  5. Congratultions on your new blog. This is great. I am glad you are still among us.

    Merry Christmas!

  6. I think we are so quick to see the bad in the world when there are so many acts of kindness occurring every day.
    Hope you had a nice Christmas!

  7. The story brought tears to my eyes--Thanks.

  8. This is trully a beautiful Christmas story Paulie. Thanks for sharing it with us.