“If I was rich I wouldn’t have any problems,” Jo told Coral.
“If I was rich I’d have a nice house and a decent car to drive,” Coral answered.
As the day progressed, Coral’s mind kept drifting back to her conversation with Jo. Through the afternoon she kept repeating a mantra, ‘I wish I was rich, I wish I was rich’. At the end of the day, Coral said goodbye to her coworkers, and feeling a bit down and out, trudged through the falling snow to her old car.
It took several tries before the engine finally sputtered and stayed. Coral shook her head, her vivid blue eyes tearing momentarily. She put the car in drive, carefully maneuvering through the now heavy falling snow.
The roads were already becoming a skating rink and the traffic was thick. Coral decided to take a short cut - better than sitting in traffic hoping her vehicle would continue to run.
Almost immediately Coral realized she’d made a huge mistake. The side roads were rutted with ice and newly fallen snow.
“Grrrr!” Coral pulled her hands through her short cap of red hair. Nothing looked right.
The usually beautiful street with its cottage style houses was now unrecognizable. Coral figured it would be apt if the car died and she got snowed in. Regretting her decision to stay out of traffic where there was people, stores, help if she needed it, she peered through the windshield.
Nothing was familiar at all. A wrong turn she figured. Now what?
Suddenly Coral was out of the snow. The street before her was snow free.
“What in the world?”
What Coral saw as she tried to get her bearings was a long, narrow roadway shrouded in darkness. Garbage cans, overflowing with trash spilled onto the curbs. The few buildings were abandoned, the windows shattered, the doors hanging precariously on their hinges.
In the alleyway men gathered around a metal drum, rubbing their hands together over the fire. People squatted alongside the building and a woman was trying to comfort a crying baby. Children stood silent, shivering in the cold.
“Oh my God,” she whispered.
The wind whistled, scattering papers. A tin can danced along the sidewalk. Coral shook her head in denial; nothing had prepared her for the bleak world she was gazing upon. The indigent inhabitants shivered, pushing themselves against the building to try to trap a bit of warmth. The young ones now seemed to ignore the cold; they stood still and eyed Coral, the wintry wind tugging at the wretched rags they wore.
“Oh my God,” she whispered again.
Coral swiped at the tears on her cheeks. All at once her mantra seemed ludicrous. She felt the bite of humiliation and shame. She thought about her life. A good job, a house to keep the cold away, food in her kitchen, a warm coat and boots. Here she saw the house these people lived in; no roof to shelter them from the rain or snow. Nothing at all to keep them warm. They couldn’t look through a cupboard and choose something to eat - they were lucky if they ate at all. She looked again at the children, most barefooted and all without warm clothing.
Coral’s forehead rested on the steering wheel. She could feel the heater suddenly start blowing warm and vaguely remembered the heater was broken. She shivered although she wasn’t cold - or was she?
THUD! THUD! THUD! Was someone banging on the window? Coral tried to lift her head but found herself unable to. Suddenly the car door swung open.
“Hey Lady! You okay? Hey Lady!”
The voice was penetrating and Coral opened her eyes.
The destitute street was gone. No men gathered around a poor fire. No child crying from hunger. No ragged children staring at her.
“Hey Lady,” the voice shrieked through her head like a banshee.
“Yeah,” Coral whispered, I’m okay. I’m so okay I feel ashamed.”
“I’m good. What happened?”
“Your car skidded through the snowbank into the alley. You sure you’re okay?”
I’m good. Looks like you might be needed over there.”
Coral pointed toward another car, spinning tires spitting snow. The good samaritan looked over, tapped the car window and slipped and slid across the street.
She started her old, ugly car, closed her eyes and whispered, “Thank you Lord for all my riches.”
Then began her new mantra: “Please, Lord, let me make a difference, please, Lord, let me make a difference.”
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