The Service of Christmas

Here are three short stories of actual encounters I have experienced this Christmas season:


Walgreens is right up the street from us. I like having a neighborhood pharmacy, where I know
all the people who work in the store, people who are a sort of extended family to us because you learn to
trust these folks over the years, you can learn some of who they are…
and I can grab some toothpaste or get some lotion for mosquito bites.

Last week, I ran in to get some moisturizer, and as I was walking down an aisle, I heard a tiny little voice say,

“Mommy, I need this!”

I rounded the corner and there was a two year old girl, short blonde, curly hair, wandering over towards something
at the end of a display case. The mother was following behind, responding with,

“Show me what you need, honey…”

The little girl pointed at something and answered,

“This. I need this.”

The mom looked at whatever it was and said,

“Oh, you don’t need that. Let’s find something else you need.”

Well, my heart just about broke in half. I was tempted to start a conversation with the woman about how
the little girl didn’t “need” that thing, she “wanted” that thing.

But I kept it to myself and decided to ponder on the difference. I could put a list of “needs” and “wants” here, but
I think you can see what I mean. Maybe this will make you consider the differences, as well.


This morning, I was headed toward ARCH (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless) with some donations, when I spied a young man
sitting outside on the ground, crosslegged, rocking himself back and forth in front of a bus stop.

I kept driving my van, but that eternal voice came to me, “Go back.” I drove another block until the voice was
so strong, I followed it by turning around and heading back.

I parked in Peter Pan Putt-Putt’s parking lot, walked to the back of the van and grabbed some oranges, poured a glass of
apple juice, gathered some brownies. I headed over to the young man. He was drooling quite heavily.

“Hello, ” I said. “I brought you something.”

“No thank you, ” he rocked.

“Are you thirsty?” I sat down on my heels near by and looked him in the eyes, with a calm, laid back demeanor. I’ve always find
if you are approaching a stranger, it is best not to act like a stranger yourself.

“No, no thank you,” he looked me in the eye, and I could see he was calm, too. He had something else in those eyes, though. It
looked like “forgotten”. He was covered in age old filth, but his clothes were relatively clean.

“Do you need blankets…?”

“No, thank you,” was how he replied, again.

“I will be thinking of you, ” I said respectfully.

He nodded, and I walked back to the car, and headed towards the ARCH.


On the way to the ARCH, I saw another long line of homeless down the street, and decided to deliver the food to St. David’s,

Parking on the side of the building, I was just trying to figure out how to carry all the goods, which came from the school
Christmas party* yesterday, when a fellow in camouflage came running around the wall,

“Miss, I can help you miss!”

I don’t even know HOW he knew I needed to carry all these supplies, he couldn’t have seen me unloading, so I decided he
was my morning’s angel!

He carried a giant chocolate sheet cake while I carried cookies, apples, oranges, grapes, jugs of juice, cups and a serving knife and plates.
We were feeling quite jolly!

He started to take it inside the building, but I stopped him.

“Let’s serve it outside, where all the people are…”

He smiled, “Oh, certainly!”

Immediately, there was a buzz through the line of about sixty people, and we were swarmed
with expectation.

“What’s in the bag?”

“I want cake! Give me some cake!”

“Can I get some for my husband, too?”

Immediately, I was sitting on the sidewalk with the young man and we put together our makeshift
serving line… putting plates together of grapes, cookies, oranges, apple slices, and I was rapidly cutting the chocolate cake
and plopping the slices onto plates appearing around my face from people hunched over, ready to eat, worried
they wouldn’t get some of the food. You could feel the worry in the air.

Amazingly, there was enough cake for everyone, and a request for more oranges and tangerines.
I promised to bring more by.

One man said, “You know what they say about chocolate! It just makes me happy! Thanks for all the chocolate!”

My angel started to gather trash and I reached over to take it all to the car, but he insisted on carrying it for me.

“Did you get some cake? I saved a piece for you,” I said.

“No, thank you. I have a little bag of cookies, ” he smiled back at me.
I handed the last plate of cake to the chocolate man.

Everyone was so grateful, “thank you for coming!” and “Thank you for thinking of us!” and “Bless you!” and I was hugging people,
touching arms, smiling at everyone.

We got to the car, the angel and me, and I asked him his name.

“Michael, ma’am. Michael Gonzales.”

I told him he was my angel for the day, and I hugged him goodbye and got in my car.

My hands were covered in chocolate frosting, sticky. I found a bottle of water under a seat,
and leaning out the driver’s door, I poured water across my hands, as the man who loves chocolate
walked by.

“MMmmm, remember what they say about chocolate!”

“I’ll just have to bring you some more,” I laughed. He laughed, too.

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