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Christmas at the Homeless Shelter

Updated on April 21, 2015
ananceleste profile image

Anan is an online blogger and private consultant since 2009 in the areas of relationships and interfaith spirituality.

Oh Christmas...

Christmas has many meanings for different people. The rush, the craziness of buying gifts and a big holiday dinner with family and friends. Making sure that everything is crossed out from your shopping list, hoping your credit can withstand another charge to your credit card.

Decking the halls and trimming the tree. In the back a Christmas carol makes its way to the kitchen where cookies and hot chocolate is filling up the air. Season greetings are pouring in the mailbox and the annual marathon of Holiday TV programming streams 24/7. Is finally here.

Christmas at the other side of town...

As you are reading this, there is a kid sitting in a sidewalk wondering if Santa will remember him. That since his family is living in a shelter, with so many other boys and girls, Will Santa stop by this Christmas?

It's cold, no money, and no place to call home. Will he remember? Mom says not to worry, the only thing we really need is each other. He agrees, he understands. Besides, happiness does not come in a box.

Nevertheless, to be acknowledged would be pretty neat too, right? Is not about material things, is about someone caring enough to take the time to share it with another human being.

Mr. Brian Nichols and his daughter walking the halls at the shelter 2009. He was one of the residents that taught me a lot of compassion.
Mr. Brian Nichols and his daughter walking the halls at the shelter 2009. He was one of the residents that taught me a lot of compassion.

Does God forget about his little ones?

I spent one Christmas with my three kids at The Coalition for The Homeless in Orlando Florida in 2009. I knew that year was going to be different for all of us. I was right, but not in the way I expected.

As Christmas approached, my focus was still to get out of there. In my mind, I reassured myself that I could make it up to my children later on in this situation. I was so sure that I had everything figured out. But, God surprised me, literally! I had a case manager that soon became my friend; she knew how difficult was for us to adjust, but on the other hand knew my determination to put this experience behind us.

Mrs. Matos (the case manager) called me to her office that 22 of December, so we can make arrangements to pick up my daughter from the hospital the next day. My oldest child had been hospitalized for 3 days by now, and if everything was OK she would out to be released the next day.

When charity turns into a statement of faith

I just wanted my daughter with us for Christmas. Especially under these circumstances. The shelter had a toy drive for the kids that resided there. I thought, that since my kids were 12,13 and 14, hopefully I could find a sweater and some clothes for them. For me that would be a God send since, back then, we had little to no clothes.

One of the other residents, Amanda, came to me running so I could pick some clothes for the kids, meaning coats. That was piled up in the hallway floor. It was very cold, and she knew we had none. Thanks to her my kids had something warm to wear at least. She did not have to do this, yet here she was a complete stranger making sure that I could do this. In a place as hostile as this one, it showed me the lengths that people that have nothing at all, will go to help another in the time of need.

With a new coat in hand, I set out to pick up my daughter at the hospital. When we came back, there were three women at the service desk with my other two kids. My heart sank to the floor. Where I come from, if you don't have a permanent address, Social Services remove the children. And since I haven't been homeless before I thought that they were here to take them away. The receptionist pointed toward me, as I saw them turn around time stopped. As I got ready to cry my eyes out. The oldest of them came to me and shook my hand with a huge smile in her face.

She identifies herself as my daughter's new Special ED teacher and the other two ladies were her daughters. Needless to say, I was very confused. But, glad that my initial assumptions were wrong.

Of Angels and elves....

She invited me to take a ride along with the kids. They even got me a pass from the shelter in advance. Taking my hands in hers, she escorted us to their SUV. We went to their home, 45 minutes away, for a Christmas dinner with their family and friends. It was very surreal to me. There was 10 to 23 people there and no one asked or mentioned us being at the shelter.

As we all got ready to eat, her husband led the group into a prayer. I could not help myself but to cry. He finished his blessing and came to my seat, with the first serving. I was too ashamed to look up. When I did, this 6'4'' tall man was tearing. The only thing that I could say was; -" What have I done to deserve this, why? You guys don't know me or my family, yet here you are feeding us! In your home!" Mrs. Gonzalez (his wife) said: -" Of course we know you! Is just that God has many faces and today he sent you to bless this house. Now EAT! -We had a lovely evening. We talked, we shared the gospel and for the first time in months I saw my kids relax.

Many do this every year.
Many do this every year.

As we head back to the shelter, I was still in awe to the day's developments. The oldest of her daughters took us back. In the car she told me how she still remembers how being homeless affected her and her family ten years ago. How going back reminded her how difficult it was for her mother to keep a good attitude about the experience. And how in spite of it all, they overcame adversity with faith. I felt so lucky to be part of such miracle. We, all, took part in it.

We said our goodbyes and blessings, so to check in at the shelter. The next morning, I was called to my case manager's office. She gave me a Christmas postcard that said:

"Material things have no value in the absence of love, but still Santa thought that your babies might like a little something when they wake up tomorrow morning. Bless you and your family. God is working for you. Never lose faith. Merry Christmas. Love; Gonzalez Family

The card had over 20 signatures. All the Gonzalez family and some friends. Then my case worker pointed out to a large black garbage bag with wrapped presents for the kids. I fell into a chair sobbing.

That night after the kids were asleep in their beds, I arranged the presents in the middle of the room. In that small room that we shared, I looked around, feeling protected and blessed, in spite of the situation. I couldn't help myself to smile. Even when I was fully employed, I knew for a fact that I could not provide them with these gifts. And yet here we were, blessed beyond our dreams. Not because of the material stuff, but for the assurance that someone cares.

My greatest blessing was to realize that God knows where we live regardless. And that angels do exist. Is not about material possessions, is about knowing that you are not alone.

Giving back and paying it forward.

That experience taught me the importance of human contact when it comes to giving back. In many cases, a smile and a hug go a long way. I am not going to address how I pay it forward, this is between God and me. But I want to encourage you to give back. You don't need money or connections to bring hope and a little joy. Get involved and give love. The rewards are incredible. Show someone that God cares, that in spite of anything, he still remembers his little ones...

This is why God wants US to get involved

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    • profile image

      Tessie 2 years ago

      Time to face the music armed with this great intmioafron.

    • ananceleste profile image
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      Anan Celeste 4 years ago from California

      Amen!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      What an amazing individual you are. It may do some good to let you know that when attempting to help out a a local shelter this year, I was warmly thanked but told they had more help than they needed. That was the best news I received all month.

    • ananceleste profile image
      Author

      Anan Celeste 4 years ago from California

      Thanks Imkarm23!

      I am a better person because of those experiences. I was so afraid then. But now, I know that I can survive anything. That year I was put through the fire, all those things that held me hostage disappeared. Yes, there is bad people out there, but it only took one random act of kindness to put me in the right set of mind. To be part of the solution, not perpetuate the problem. Blessings.

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 4 years ago

      This leaves me feeling so sad for the fear...the unknown...the dangers that you and your family faced! It also leaves me feeling a glow of pride for you in your journey and in your ultimate success! You got heart, girl - clearly - not much keeps you down!

      Finally - this beautiful story renews my faith in mankind and the milk of human kindness...lately - i've 'felt' a turn in the tide from greed - to giving - and i really REALLY like it!

      Have a wonderful season, my friend..

      voting up/across/ and sharing forward...

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      So sad that you had to go through such an experience but so heartwarming to know that such wonderful people are in this world as those who helped you and your daughters. I wish you and your family the very best of Christmases and may God bless you. Passing this on.

    • ananceleste profile image
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      Anan Celeste 4 years ago from California

      Hi Sonny;

      My sweet dear Sonny, I am so sorry. This is the good part of my experience of being homeless. Everything is very real. Actually I still am friends with both my case manager, Mrs. Enid Matos, and Mrs. Gonzalez that now teaches in a school in Puerto Rico since 2010. I had to ask permission to print their names. They took my hand and taught me to be strong in spite of everything. For that I will be eternally grateful. This was more than real, it was the biggest lesson of my life. Blessings.

    • ananceleste profile image
      Author

      Anan Celeste 4 years ago from California

      Hi Honey BB;

      It can be very intense. But I found out something so incredible about the human spirit, never underestimate the power of faith and love. Blessings.

    • Sonny Ellar profile image

      Sonny Ellar 4 years ago from Saudi Arabia

      Anan, is this someone else's story? someone you know? Christmas stories are often mellow dramatic and since I have experienced poverty myself, I could easily relate to just any story. I'm telling you, I have read almost half of it but I couldn't finish reading your story because I am sure it will take me back to the saddest chapter of my life. I swore not to see myself crying again :(

    • HoneyBB profile image

      Honey Halley 4 years ago from Illinois

      How sad it is that you had to go through this with your family. I know this because I had to bring my children to live in a shelter over Christmas one year also. Like you, I also found that they love and warmth from the staff and fellow residents made it a surprisingly joyful Christmas. Thanks for sharing your story.