A CHRISTMAS MOMENT
Each year around the holidays, various brokers who cover us here at work, send us token gifts or take us out for lunch. These gifts have become far less frequent now that we trade primarily on the computer screen. This year in fact, only one gift was distributed to each person on our desk. It was a woolen blanket, rolled up and packaged to be carried like a lunch box. It looked warm, efficient and convenient, though not terribly necessary for us on the 11th floor of 1251 Ave of Americas, working in short sleeves for one of the largest banks in the world. A colleague sitting next to me, frowned in disgust and said: ‘what’s this..?’ and chucked it under his desk. Another behind me laughed and handed it to a junior assistant (most likely feeling magnanimous while actually being condescending). I said: ‘well… it IS from Mitsui Fudosan, a broker that we DON’T even use, I think I’ll offer it to some homeless person on the way to the train.’
So, shortly thereafter, I set off to catch my train, remembering to grab the blanket. I was quite certain that I would not need to carry it far, for December 22’nd was one of the coldest days yet, of an already bitterly cold month. Quite to my surprise, after eight city blocks, I had seen NO homeless panhandlers at all. There were plenty of tourists merrily making their way through the cold but conspicuously absent, were the various homeless shapes I had seen walking to work in the pre dawn stillness. Could it actually be that the city officials have them literally swept off the streets at first light, to hide any unpleasantness from our visiting tourists…? Surely the shelters would not be closed at night and just open during the day. It made no sense and then it made perfect sense and my heart sank.
For a long moment I stood still on that cold sidewalk, oblivious to those trying to get around me with their bags and strollers. Then, changing directions, I started walking away from Grand Central. I could always catch the next train, or the one after that. I went west and south, weaving through the less crowded city blocks. When the shadows began engulfing all but the highest buildings, I started to resign myself to the fact that I might have to place the woolen blanket in a goodwill bin at the station. Then, around the corner of a non-descript desolate city street, sat an old African American woman with a frayed pink blanket draped over her slouched shoulders. She sat on an old plastic milk crate and her feet shuffled softly in the cold. She had no tin rattling for change, no cardboard sign to display her despair, only one arm hugging the other. So set back from the sidewalk, almost hidden in the darkness, I almost missed seeing her completely. When I turned and approached with the Fudosan blanket held out to her, she did not immediately notice that I was there. Then, after what seemed a long moment, she looked up and she saw the blanket. Her initial bewilderment quickly gave way to a broad smile and she made a sound as soft as a pigeon cooing. As I began to turn away, she looked up and our eyes met. I said: ‘Merry Christmas’ and she held my gaze for a long time. Her large brown eyes were somewhat misty but clear and penetrating. I read her lips: ‘thank you’. I smiled, gave her a thumbs up and headed on my way.
As I strode to the station, now feeling quite good indeed, I could not shake and cannot to this day from my memory, those penetrating eyes. It was as if I had looked into the eyes of someone I had known all my life. In those eyes there was a moment of Peace, comfort, understanding, compassion and clarity.
Several days later, on the evening before Christmas, I told my wife and sons this story, and my wife reminded me that Christ often sees us through the eyes of others and we sometimes, can see Christ in theirs.
May God bless all our families throughout each day and may we never forget how fortunate, we truly are.