Sunday, December 23, 2007
A Christmas Visitor
(Originally posted for Christmas 2004)
4:00 am 12/24/04
There was a knock on my front door which startled me awake. My dogs were barking which required dire threats to quieten as I answered the door.
Maybe you have heard of our weather and the unusually cold temperatures (16 F) and large amount of snow that has fallen, (18"), in the last 24 hours. I live just south of Interstate 64 in Southern Indiana and you may have seen the news about the closed Interstate and stranded motorists on the national news.
A man, about my own age, (early 50s), stood at the door. He was wearing tennis shoes, jeans, a field jacket and sock hat. His glasses were frosted and he wore no gloves.
He told me he was lost and asked where St.James Blvd was. I told him it was about a mile and a half to the West and asked him where his car was. He said he was walking.
I asked him in and sat a chair for him by the furnace vent. He was shivering uncontrollably, a faint whiff of alcohol was on his breath. I asked if I could fix him something to eat and he refused but he accepted a cup of coffee.
My wife talked to him as he warmed himself and I made some coffee, I could hear him speak as I made his coffee ready.
My son heard him and came into the living room to sit and listen, to keep an eye out just in case.
He was homeless, he had been sleeping under a bridge on the Ohio River about seven miles to the West. He decided that it was too cold and he might freeze to death if he didn't find a safe place to stay. About midnight, he left his meager possessions, just a few clothes, and headed for his sisters house on St James but he had walked past the street in the dark. He was lost and confused, probably somewhat drunk, and hypothermia can add confusion to even the sober mind.
As he spoke, I realized that he had mental problems, as do many of the homeless.
There are places that provide refuge for the indignant, I'm sure he knew it. But they won't accept anyone who is intoxicated, which I'm also sure he knew.
He drank his coffee then asked me if I would drive him to his sisters house, then he offered me two dollars. Of course I refused the money but offered to take him where he wanted to go.
I intended to take measures to see after him anyway and he seemed anxious to leave.
As I drove, he told me that his sister was out of town but he had permission to use her house in an emergency. I was worried that he was just lying for reasons of his own but I was determined to see the thing through even if I had to call the police to ensure his wellbeing through this cold weather.
As we drove up to the house there was a porch light on and smoke coming from the chimney, even though it was apparent that there was no one home. The snow around the house was undisturbed.
I asked him if he was sure he could get in, he said, "Yes, she (his sister) told me where the key is." He reached out his hand, as if for a hand shake, and when I offered mine, pulled it to his lips and kissed it saying, "God bless you".
I was profoundly embarrassed but stayed long enough to see him dig around in the snow and find a key, unlock the door and wave goodbye.
I drove home, my thoughts disturbed, by the events that had taken place.
My wife was relieved as I came in and I started preparing food (very early) for this Christmas Eve. As I cut up fruit for salad and prepared the turkey for baking, my son came up behind me and hugged me, kissing my head, and said, "Dad, you did a good thing."
Again, I was embarrassed, not by my son's hug and kiss but by his praise.
I did it because it was the right thing to do.
Then he told me that he tries to help the homeless ones that hang around his place of employment. We spoke of how little we can actually do for them and I was proud of my son for doing the right thing.
He is a good man.
As I continued to prepare food for Christmas Eve, my thoughts drifted to a couple seeking shelter in Bethlehem and the birth of the Lamb of the New Covenant, and I felt God's Peace.
May God's Peace be with you all!