Most people look forward to opening boxes on Christmas morning. Not me.
Maybe I should explain: the box I opened this morning was the one I live in.
I’ve been homeless for a while now, and every morning seems the same to me. I could give the long, sad story about how I ended up in a cardboard mansion, but I’d rather not.
When I stretched awake this morning, Christmas didn’t feel any different than any other morning. It was cramped and cold today – no different than any other morning. I opened the box, folded my belongings, stashed them behind a dumpster and wished myself a happy holiday.
I wasn’t feeling so merry.
I needed food and a place to get warm. Maybe I should hit the mission, because I could get those things there. Maybe the meal would be nice today, but I wasn’t in the mood to hear a sermon today.
I walked to the park and figured begged for change to buy breakfast. I’m not exactly a reliable employee, so that’s what I do. I got enough for coffee and a roll. I even bought an orange for later. After I ate, I felt restless; Christmas Day should be different, somehow. But how?
I decided maybe I’d go to the mission, after all.
After all… that’s what it’s there for. It’s warm and dry. The food is warm and usually good. The bed they’d offer me sure beat that cruddy old quilt I’d stashed with my box. I’d have to sit through a sermon, but maybe I’d get a nice gift.
Maybe I’d actually have a halfway decent Christmas.
The turkey dinner was good, and I felt warmed by the atmosphere. I saw people I knew: some from the streets and some from the mission. When it was time for church, I went to my folding chair and got ready to be bored.
It was a nice, young couple: Kim and Jim. They were full of smiles and sang carols nicely. After the carols, Jim walked up to the microphone. “For God so loved the world …”
Been here, heard that. Well, you know how turkey gets you tired? That, plus those so-familiar words were all I needed; my eyes started getting heavy and I drifted off.
I woke up, quickly; realized everyone was singing again. I stretched as Kim came to the mike.
“We’re here tonight to thank God. About a year ago, we were blessed with the gift of our new daughter. We’d been waiting to adopt, and the hospital called us to say a baby girl had been left with them.”
My heart skipped a beat as last Christmas’ memories flooded back to me:
Christmas morning, a year ago: pain, so intense it ripped through my body. My cardboard box was more cramped than ever as labor pains dominated every breath. I’m only 17 now; 16 is too young to be cold, alone and in labor – but that’s what I was. When it was over, and I held my daughter in my arms, I did something I rarely did: I prayed. I asked God to help me be sure she’d end up with a good life.
I’d read about Safe Harbor and I walked to the hospital. I was so tired, but knew it had to be done. I hesitated at the ER doors, but no one was looking. There was a little bassinette: waiting, inside the door. I prayed a little prayer, kissed my daughter,left her there - and walked away.
Oh, it couldn’t be. Kim said a year ago, but there had to be so many babies born that day; so many that they could have ended up with. But maybe…
Something drove me to go up to them after the message. When I got there, Kim was bending down to reach into a baby seat that, until now, I hadn’t noticed in the front row. She took a look at me and smiled. “What is it, sweetie?” But I was lost in that baby’s eyes; they were like a photograph of my sister Mary’s eyes.
I guess Jim knew, somehow. One glance from him to Kim, and she looked at me with the most joyous look I’ve ever seen. And the next thing I knew, we’re sitting at this table sharing coffee.
I have no idea what will happen now, but maybe it will turn out to be a Merry Christmas, after all.
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