Last winter there was a man with a white beard who sat under a tree on a curb near a coffee shop in my neighborhood. He held no sign asking for hand outs – he simply sat there with his headphones over his ears, waiting for time to pass away. Over the summer I noticed he moved, along with the utility cart piled high with his worldly belongings, to a bench on the nearby street corner. There he sat each day in the blazing sun, watching cars idle as their air-conditioned drivers waited for the light to turn green before speeding off to their destinations.
Though I’ve spoken to him only a couple of times I watch for him on my way home each day, the way I watch for a friend, wondering what life must be like to sit there alone day in and day out.
My heart breaks for the homeless.
Last night I felt the weight of the world coming down upon me over the most ridiculous thing… Our artificial tree wouldn’t light up.
Yeah, I know…
But in the moment, when the plan was to do the family tradition tree decorating the next day, it felt like a big deal. We even went to some stores looking to replace the silly thing (with money we don’t have to spend) in order to have a proper Christmas. We didn’t purchase a tree. In my stubbornness, I worked on getting the lights to come on but in the end, just tossed the thing back into the storage container and worried about how we would hang those precious ornaments, that hold so many memories, on a non-existent tree.
This morning I woke with some perspective. I am ever so grateful for a house where I stay warm and dry, a soft cozy bed to sleep in, doors that lock so I feel secure, lights to turn on when it’s dark, running water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing, a furnace that heats up the place, couches and chairs to sit on and relax, food in the refrigerator and pantry, a stove, oven and microwave to cook food, a bathroom with a toilet that is private and sanitary.
I am grateful for what I consider the basics in life.
In many parts of the world these are not basics. I don’t know how I ended up here in this great nation of abundance, but I am ever so grateful.
Even without a Christmas tree, I’m grateful for the season of Advent, the joyous expectation of the birth of our Savior. I’m grateful for my very favorite Christmas decoration – Santa kneeling before the baby Jesus, who came into this world of suffering to give us hope.
My bearded friend hasn’t been on his corner lately. My heart aches and I pray for him when I see that empty bench. I wonder what has happened to him and I hope that he has moved, along with his few belongings, to a place where he is warm and dry. My prayer is that he will know God’s love and the saving grace of His son, which is free for everyone… Even (or especially) for the homeless.