Friday, December 01, 2006

Spirit of Christmas Revisited

Last year at about this time, I was having trouble dealing with and getting into the Christmas scene. Getting myself lost in the crowds of other shoppers did little to lift my spirits. Listening to a steady stream of Christmas carols helped, but it wasn't enough. I was just another Christmas zombie wandering in and out of shops empty handed.
....Then I came across a folded sheet of wrapping paper in my desk drawer. When I unfolded it I found something in my handwriting. It was a poem that I had scribbled down five years earlier. Somewhat suppressed, memories of the December of 2000 were evoked. Where shopping and carols had failed, reading my own thoughts of five years before had given me a fresh outlook, not only on the spirit of Christmas, but life itself.
....I reasoned that if that poem could lift my spirits, maybe, just maybe it might inspire others. So on 12/9/05 I posted the poem here. There were several pleasant comments left on that posting. One comment in particular from a dear blogger friend, Monty, warmed my heart. My poem had helped her to capture the Christmas spirit.

In that posting, the poem stood alone on its own merits. I never explained what had inspired me to write it in the first place. I never mentioned that the story it told was in fact a true story. I will attempt to correct that oversight now.

In November of 2000, I had lost my mother when she succumbed to the ravages of advanced diabetes. She was 74. After her passing, a month had passed and the upcoming holidays seemed to me like a cruel annoyance. I dreaded the arrival of Christmas morning. Christmas morning was the time that I would make the traditional phone calls back home to my siblings and of course, to my mother. It was the call that I would not be making that year that tortured me.
....I tried to do some early Christmas shopping that year, just to change my pattern in attempt to sever my ties to the traditional ways. I figured that if I went shopping before the last two or three days before Christmas, I could capture some semblance of the spirit of the holiday. It was a miserably failed experiment.
....That is, it was a failure until I turned a corner and came upon a blind homeless man sitting on a piece of cardboard on the sidewalk near a busy department store. The scene struck me as curious in that he was trying to give a twenty dollar bill to a woman with a crying little girl at her side.
....Somehow, probably jostled and bumped by someone in the throngs of shoppers, the little girl had lost her beloved teddy bear. The man held the money aloft and told the girl's mother to buy her a new teddy bear. I was touched that this poor soul could find charity for another when he was the one in most need of it. The woman was touched also, so much that upon rejecting his money, she produced a twenty of her own and placed it his coffee can.

....I walked over to the man and was about to add a dollar to his can when I noticed a pair of broken sunglasses beside him. Someone must have stepped on them. It was a bright sunny day and there was a harsh glare from the fresh snow that had fallen the day before. I removed my own sunglasses and placed them in his hand and said to him that he needed them more than I. Then I reached into my pocket and pulled out my last ten dollar bill and dropped it and the single into his can.

....On the subway ride home, I put down my thoughts on some wrapping paper. I had set out that day looking for the spirit of Christmas. I had found it not in a store or gift shop, but on a cardboard mat on a cold sidewalk in downtown Boston.

It was five years before that poem would be shared. It has taken one more for the story behind it to also be shared. If but only person more can be inspired by this poem, then surely the charity and spirit of a homeless blind man is eternal.

Blind Spirit of Christmas
Wandering about, I was looking
For this thing they called the Christmas Spirit.
Would I even be able to recognize it
Should I pass by it, or should I come near it?
I lost it quite a few years ago
In some box of lights, tinsel and ornaments,
Somewhere in an attic crawl way
With the decorations and bright merriments.
Maybe I dropped it ere a window
Displaying the sales items and the bargains;
Perhaps he needs a pair of gloves,
He'd look great in one of those cardigans.
Growing up, I'd heard the stories
That told us of peace on earth and good will.
I knew the spirit was out there.
I swore I'd find it and I wouldn't stop until.
Where is that Spirit of Christmas?
Not among the sales slips that I see littered
Or in the bags shoppers carry.
It's something else that has me embittered.
I turned the corner to the square
And came upon a man sitting on cardboard;
His sightless eyes not seeing any
Of the precious few coins that he had scored.
A pair of broken sunglasses lay
Next to him, stepped on by some passerby.
He held aloft a twenty dollar bill.
He said "I can't see her but I can hear her cry."
She lost her favorite Teddy bear.
I heard her crying, passing with her mother.
Can someone give this to her,
So that she can go in the shop to buy another?"
Her mother was touched by this,
And kindly declining she dropped a twenty
Into his can from the purse she held.
"It is you who is in need and we have plenty."
Was it a tear forming in my eye?
I then removed the sunglasses from my shirt
And touched him on his shoulder.
"The glare on the snow is bright and must hurt.
You surely need these more than I.
I could see upon his arms sores needing salve.
I doubted that he would seek care,
But I pulled out the only bill I happened to have.
"You are so kind," he said to me.
"No," I answered, "It is you that I must admire.
For you have in your heart
That which I have been seeking and so desire."
I walked away from the man
With far more than I'd had from the start.
I'd found the Spirit of Christmas
In a blind homeless man's eyes and heart.

May the true meaning and spirit of Christmas follow you through the rest of your lives. Merry Christmas everyone.



Peter said...

A beautiful story and poem Mike, this truly is the spirit of Christmas.

Anonymous said...

As Peter said, the true spirit of Christmas. Very nice.

Margaret said...

Truly beautiful story and poem, What a wonderful way to find your lost Christmas Spirit, I am trying to find my Christmas spirit this year, not much luck yet.
Cheers Margarety

lime said...

ok, most sentimental holiday stories make me cringe because they are often so contrived. the truth behind this one and the way you've expressed it has touched me to the core. dabbing my eyes here. thanks for sharing from the heart.

jules said...

Awww....I didn't "know" you last year at this time. I'm grateful now that I do.

Jack K. said...

A truly poignant story and poem. It shows that you know how to....

Serve others, care about those you serve and share the love in your heart.

What better attributes could a person have? We should all be so inclined.

Serena said...

Wonderful story and beautiful poem. If that won't get one into the spirit, nothing will.

kenju said...

A wonderful poem, Mike, and greatly appreciated. Somehow this year I seem to have more of the spirit than I did last year. I hope everybody will feel that way.

Miss Cellania said...

That was wonderful. Thanks for posting it.

Anonymous said...

A great story.

Hale McKay said...

Air Freshener,

Are you suggesting you didn't like this post? It wasn't that bad was it?

Hale McKay said...

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Thank you. I'll take the hint and try out some of your games.

Anonymous said...

Man, that was a touching story. It's wonderful to see that there is still some Christian charity of the heart out there.

Hale McKay said...


Why thank you for the kind words.

Alas, there is simply not enough Christian charity left in the world.

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