Money is no stranger to me. I know how to save it, how to spend it, and every facet of its relationship with people who trust me to guide them in the best use of it. I am a banker.
For years I have been immersed in the details of stocks and bonds and loans and interest rates and mortgages. I have seen heartbreak from bankruptcies and elation from good investments. I have been in the middle of corporate takeovers and on the wrong end of a gun wielded by nervous masked men without any form of identification who were intent on making a felonious withdrawal.
My career has all but consumed me and tiredness has crept into my bones and robbed me of my old passion to spend every waking hour in the counting house dealing with everyman’s finances. In order to refresh mind, body, and soul, the idea of taking an extended vacation to see the world began to have great appeal.
I have no family. In view of my increasing fatigue and disinterest in the job, the idea to travel became a lifeline. The well organized plan was to lock up my small apartment, put my sensible automobile in storage, and take a leave of absence to see the world. My estimated time of departure was scheduled a few weeks before Christmas.
The first order of business on my trip check-list was to visit my doctor for a basic physical examination and to obtain whatever inoculations were required to enter other countries. That’s where my perfect agenda hit a brick wall. That’s where my expected destination changed forever. That’s where a man in a white coat with a stethoscope draped around his neck delivered the bottom line.
After the shock of my fatal diagnosis and the prediction of my short term on this earth, I went to the park to sit on a bench in the sun and try to evaluate my dire situation. I am nothing if not a practical man. My mantra has always been, “It is what it is,” and that leaves little room for weeping or wailing over something that cannot be changed.
It was my intention to make some kind of difference with the time I had left, so I terminated my employment, sold everything I had, except a few changes of serviceable clothes, and moved to an inexpensive Mom and Pop motel. I began to spend every day at the local soup kitchen dishing out sustenance to the constant influx of cold, hungry, dirty folks with no home and little hope.
Area churches provided seasonal decorations and extra hands. I could see the unselfish volunteer effort of a few decent humans in full swing right before my eyes. It seemed so temporary though. The last bell and whistle to announce the New Year is also a call back to the demeaning grind for way too many needy citizens. I pondered deeply on these things as I moved around the tables at mealtime, doing the best I could to give something back.
My last day to serve was at the Christmas Eve banquet that brought even more hungry people in search of warmth and goodwill. The extended hours and little gifts provided by well-meaning charities seemed merely a brief respite from harsh reality.
Life really is a vapor, and never more exquisitely real than at its ending when there is no escaping the final phase. I had talked to God, or prayed if you will, and was confident of my new destination. The only thing I had left to do was distribute my Christmas cards.
The printed message was a glorious witness to the birth of our Lord and Savior. From the local governmental heads who received instructions to make specific charitable changes, to the willing helpers who deserved an unexpected recognition, to the masses of down-trodden and helpless who needed an incentive to make a new start, I divided my well-earned fortune borne of frugality and good sense. I told the shocked recipients of those carefully chosen cards I was going away.
I slipped off into the dark night before any response could be made to the message-filled Christmas cards and the generous contents. I heard one voice behind me, full of spontaneous spirit and well wishes.
“Have a good trip,” he boomed with appropriate joy of the season.
I turned around and waved and smiled.
“Thanks, I will… Merry Christmas.”
Then I resumed my peaceful walk home.
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