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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Favoritism (02/28/05)

TITLE: Cardboard Castles and Ivory Towers
By Nancy Hardy


I stand staring into the hollow faces of poverty: Neediness in the eyes of a hungry child, tears running down the cheeks of a mother, unable to feed her son. The careworn visage of a father, whose pride is being tested as he stands in line for a free meal; his daughter clinging to his leg, fear in her once carefree eyes. The man who lost his job stands next to the man who lost his mind. The abused teenager, who took to the streets, moves closer to the young girl born on the very streets she now takes refuge in. Shoulder to shoulder stand the laid off pharmacist and the drug addict, in desperate need of a fix.

Crazy Mary is still cursing the Zoltar for always moving her shopping cart. Benny is still singing your favorite song, while Hector backs him up on his ‘bodacious’ air guitar; it somehow sounds off key this year. All around, I see the vacant countenance of discrimination, abuse, and social and economic unbalance- the invisible wall of prejudice, keeping the Ishmaelites out of the gated community, filled with ivory towers.

The flames, jumping from the industrial barrels, light the makeshift village, illuminating the great need that hovers around this encampment. Cardboard castles, placed over grates of escaping steam are more in number, causing the bedding and food baskets to be accepted with genuine enthusiasm and appreciation. The needle-scarred arms that reach out to hug me, hold on a just little longer. And I could swear that, Candy, the prideful paphian, let briny tears weave, heedlessly, down her brightly painted face.

This is the first Yule that I made this trip without you. I remember all the years past, when we shared the true spirit of Christmas with those whose spirits were low, depleted of hope. I recall that first journey, how well you educated me in the true meaning of equality- what a wonderful gift.

The concept was difficult for my ten-year-old mind to comprehend, but your willingness to take your baby sister with you on your annual mission, has forever changed the way I’ll view humanity. I have never let elapse, the wisdom you voiced without speaking a single word. How I wish you could wordlessly talk with me again.

With each smile and embrace you so freely shared, you taught me to regard others through the eyes of God; for He sees, in this provisional campus of dirty faces and broken dreams, a legion of kings and queens, princes and princesses. This filthy via-duct is not a homeless faction of insignificants, but rather, a palace of wounded souls just waiting to be healed by the great Balm of Gilead.

I remember the small café we would always stop at. Over steaming mugs of cocoa, we shared and bonded as sisters. It was in those special times, just the two of us, that you impressed upon my heart the great value of reflecting Jesus to everyone the Lord placed in our lives. You warned that, a life outside of Jesus Christ causes people to become cold and cynical and that, as Christians, we need to daily battle the propensity of falling into the ego-driven attitude of nepotism. I can almost hear your sweet voice saying: “Annie, we must learn to love all peoples; to ignore any one of God’s children is to favor ourselves greater than they. That is not what God desires.”

“Everyone?” I remember incredulously asking. I was beyond perplexed to discover this concept you spoke of, was all-inclusive. I mean, the suggestion that rich, beautiful people, who daily give little or no thought to the disadvantages of others, are as deeply loved by the Heavenly Father as the displaced throng we had just visited. That the powerful and strong, who sit back and pretend they do not see, are equally adored by the Creator. I have to be honest, that baffled me. Even today, it seems hard for me to abide, but by God’s grace, I’m learning.

My thoughts are stirred back to the present by the cool manna floating down from heaven. The intricate snowflakes begin clinging to my wool jacket; it’s time to go. I tug the collar closer to myself as the cool wind of reality blows, chilling me to the bone. The deep ache, that the arctic blast creates, is wonderfully warmed by the knowledge of God’s incomprehensible love and the precious lessons you ingrained into my Christian understanding. Thanks, Sis… Merry Christmas.

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This article has been read 1014 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Chris Miller03/07/05
You had some great imagry. Quite powerful. I think you almost have too much though to be digested by the reader. Maybe a little simplication would help the reader. It's obviously something you care greatly about.
Phyllis Inniss03/07/05
What a wonderful sister you had. The message came across very clearly in that legacy left in sisterly love.
Lynne Gaunt03/08/05
You have some vivid descriptions and a powerful message. This seems to be your central message:

"the great value of reflecting Jesus to everyone the Lord placed in our lives"

But it almost gets lost because you are trying to say so much.

I love that you turn it around at the end to show God loves even the rich as much as he loves the destitute - it goes both ways doesn't it? Most people never give that a thought. Nice entry!
Kristy Cox03/08/05
WOW! What else can I say? Great use of words and imagery. I think your narrative (letter?) is very scholarly and would be a nice addition to a magazine. Ever thought about Christmas at Guideposts? Remember, they usually only take seasonal articles six months in advance. This was so beautiful! In His Grip ...
Jared Norton03/09/05
I really enjoyed the thoughts and feelings of this article. Very touching. Clever name! It feels like you have allot to say to your sister that this short article can't do justice to. I would recomend turning this wonderful piece into a longer memior, and then trying to get it published as was already recomended! -God bless you and yours!
donna robinson03/09/05
In trying to read as many entries as I can, I almost missed this one as I saw it already had plenty of commnents. I am so glad I didn't; the message your sister impacted is of such magnitude. You told it with eloquency and love.
Suzanne R03/09/05
What a lovely way to honour your sister ... and what a sister! I too found interesting and helpful the twist at the end about God loving the rich too ... thought provoking.
Kathy Cartee03/10/05
Wonderful story. What a blessing to have such a sister.
Linda Germain 03/10/05
Nicely done. Seems like it belongs in 'Advanced' to me! You express yourself very well.