Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Merry Christmas," She Said.

Not wishing to remove my gloves in the cold, I said, "I'll catch you on the way out." It would be simpler, I thought, to keep my wallet handy once I'd finished at the cashier's. She smiled and nodded, not missing a beat, our conversation another verse to the song she played inside her head.

I didn't have to say anything; her back was to me, I could have walked on, completed my business, then done as I intended. No one needed to know; none would be the wiser.

Except that I wanted her to know because so many just walk on by. I almost forgot myself, until the last second when I saw her again and remembered. I marveled at her patience, at her consistency. It wasn't like she expected everyone to stop; only those who were supposed to. She was on her appointed rounds, waiting for her people to show up, even if they didn't realize they were hers until that very moment. In the meantime, she kept on, ringing what I heard as Jingle Bells and she maybe something else, her eyes peeking over the rim of a muffler wrapped round her face, twinkling in good faith.

I would get impatient, I'm sure. Impatient, disgruntled, discouraged and then cynical, passing judgment, playing God. It would be easy to do, to forget how easy it is to be guarded in times like these, to blame the unfortunate for their misfortune, to cross to the other side of the road like the Priest and the Lawyer once did and a Good Samaritan didn't.

A Samaritan, by the way, who wasn't like we paint him, one of the good guys going about doing good deeds at Christmas, someone you'd like to have living next door or upstairs. He was a Black man in 1950s Alabama who dared touch a White woman who'd been raped and left for dead. Or, maybe she's homeless, living in a tent constructed from cardboard boxes. The Good Samaritan was like that, unacceptable by the book, but caring anyway.

She was also a Salvation Army Bell Ringer on a frigid Portland morning waiting for me to step up and be counted. To stuff a bill in her bucket. To render aid. To follow her example, to not cross the street and walk on by.

"Merry Christmas," she said.

(Creative Commons image by miliu92 via Flickr)

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