A Christmas Day to Remember
“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.” --Charles Dickens
“What the world needs is a new army—the army of the kind.” --Cleveland Amory
It was a cold December day, and the wind was making it rather difficult for Jacob Selini to make his way to his car, for he was walking against the wind. You can’t stop me, Jacob thought. But life always seemed to be an uphill climb for him. It's not fair.
It’s funny! Nature did not have this struggle. The newly fallen leaves enjoyed their free ride. They saw the wind as an opportunity. It was their chance to check out another town. Why not? Sounds like fun, right? But Jacob wasn’t interested in leaves or other towns; he was a man on a mission. He was in a hurry to make it home for that special Christmas Eve dinner.
His wife, as usual, would cook a spectacular meal that was the talk of the town. It was a meal to die for. Jacob wouldn’t miss it for the world. Even this blasted wind wouldn’t stop him. Then, Jacob spotted a homeless man on the left side of the sidewalk, next to the record shop. I hope he doesn’t ask me for money, thought Jacob. I am not in the mood for that. But as Jacob thought that, it was too late.
“Excuse me, sir,” asked the homeless man. “Can you spare a few coins? I’m awfully hungry.”
Jacob didn’t buy the homeless man’s story for a second. He probably lives on the top of the hill in some four million dollar mansion. He doesn’t need money. He probably has more money than my entire block put together!
The homeless man’s attire was first rate. He was a great actor. The shoes were so worn that his toes were showing. His pants had a ton of holes, while his shirt and jacket looked like he just got them out of the dumpster. Even the homeless man’s face, hands, and hair were a mess. This guy is good, thought Jacob. He deserves an Academy Award. But Jacob wasn’t going to be another victim of an eccentric millionaire. Not today. Not on Christmas Eve!
“No. I will not give you any money. Why don’t you go back to your mansion, old man? You are not fooling anybody with that charade. You must have gotten an “A+” in theater.”
“I don’t understand, sir?”
“Yeah, right! I have heard of you scammers before, ripping people off. Then, at the end of the day, you have the last laugh. You can’t pull the wool over these eyes,” stated Jacob, pointing to his eyes.
“Sir, I’m homeless! I was laid off from my job and couldn’t get another one. I’m in my late fifties, and it seems that every job only wants young people. I have been turned down so many times that I decided not to bother. I depleted my savings in one year and wasn’t able to pay the mortgage. I was only three years from paying off my house, but the bank still took the house. I didn’t have any friends or relatives to help me out, so here I am. I sleep in one of the abandoned buildings, downtown.”
“I’m sorry old man, but I don’t buy your story for a minute! Why don’t you go back to your mansion and leave me the hell alone.”
“Sir, I don’t—
“Enough!” Jacob pushed passed the homeless man and ran towards his car. He decided that he had enough foolishness for one day.
The music that was coming from the stage was out of this world. It was indescribable. Like music that you would probably hear in Heaven. And I was a part of this. I felt the warm flow of tears fall down my cheeks. I was a part of history in the making! Melissa really out did herself with this musical production. There were ten musicians playing string instruments. Melissa and another musician played the violin. The other musicians included a drummer, two percussionists, a piano player, a saxophonist, acoustic guitarist, keyboardist, and trumpet player.
The music was melodic and rhythmic. I wanted to dance. Instead, I settled with tapping my hands on my thighs. I looked at Ted and was shocked to see that he was also tapping his hands on his thighs. Ted saw me staring, and smiled. I could tell that he was having a blast as well. I glanced around the theater and was happy to see all the people enjoying the show. And just when things were really cooking, the song ended. It was the last song of the evening. I knew the end was coming, but I was having too much fun, and did not want it to end. I wanted the music to go on forever. But all things most come to an end sooner or later.
All the musicians walked up to the front of the stage and bowed to the audience. I waved at Melissa and she waved backed. Her eyes lit up when she saw us! It had been 17 years since we last saw each other. Ted had landed a job up in Oregon and we decided to start a new life there. I know that I didn’t want to stop Ted’s dream of designing eco-friendly houses. This was important to him. It was also better for the world. And since I was an artist, I could do my work anywhere. Of course, I had to have my own little studio to create in, right?
The crowd began to thin out, so Ted and I decided to make our way to the back of the stage. Melissa was expecting us. I was so excited. I will finally get to see my best friend after all these years, I thought. I was so happy! The tears began to flow again. Ted smiled and kissed me on the forehead. I’m so lucky to have this beautiful soul in my life. Thank you Universe!
“Hey, strangers!” said Melissa. I did not see her coming. It was common for Melissa to sneak up on people and yell “boo!” She was barrel of monkeys. Boy, did I miss her!
I ran up to Melissa and gave her the biggest hug of all time. She kissed my cheek and hugged me some more. “Melissa, you don’t know how happy I am to see you,” I said. “It has been a long, long time.” Melissa nodded.
I could see the happiness in Ted’s eyes. He knew how much I loved Melissa. It was Ted’s decision to move back to California. The internet is great, but it is not the same as seeing someone in person. There is a bond that you cannot deny. There was also a connection between Ted and Melissa. When I first met Ted, I tried to avoid him like the plague, but it was Melissa that talked sense into me. She also told Ted to be patient: “Sara will come around. She is working through her fears.” After Melissa and I finished our long hug, she gave Ted a big bear hug.
“Ted, it is great to see you again,” said Melissa. “You have some gray hair, but you still look as handsome as ever.” Ted blushed.
“It’s good to see you, Melissa,” stated Ted. “We loved the show!” Sara nodded. “I couldn’t stop my hands from tapping. The music was so—
“Out of this world,” I replied. Ted stuck his tongue at me. I did the same to him. Melissa stuck her tongue at both of us. This fun resulted in a bunch of laughter from us. It was like old times again.
“Hey, I’m starved,” said Melissa. “Do you guys want to get something to eat?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Sure, why not,” replied Ted.
“Good. I’m treating.”
Julie Parks was on her way to the record shop to buy a Michael Bublé Christmas CD, when she stumbled across an old coworker in front of the shop. It can’t be, she decided. This can’t be Thomas Rodgers that was laid off two years ago. But it was! He looked awful. You could see his toes through his shoes. His clothes were in utter ruin. He looked like he crawled out of garbage can. Poor guy. What happened to him?
“Thomas, is that you?” asked Julie.
“J-J-Julie?” Thomas stuck his hand out. “It is good to see you.” Julie shook his hand. Oh, well, she thought. I will just wash it later.
“It’s good to see you. Don’t you have a place to stay, Thomas?”
“Sure, I’m staying downtown in one of the old abandoned buildings.”
“You should not be living there. Those building are not safe! I heard the city is going to tear them down any day now.”
“But what can I do, Julie. I have no other place to go. I am tired of being told that I can’t stay: “Hey bum. Get outta of here or I’ll call the cops. Leave! You are scaring the customers.” As Thomas said this, the owner of the record shop came out. He looked angry.
“I’m sorry, but you need to leave, old man,” replied the owner of the shop. “I have a respectable business I’m trying to run here. Don’t you see that you are bothering this nice lady?”
“He’s not bothering any one, sir,” stated Julie. “In fact, he’s with me!” The owner of the shop looked puzzled. He couldn’t believe this. Why would an attractive lady want to hang out with a street bum? This didn’t make any sense. Oh well, thought the owner of the shop. It’s not my life. “Sorry Ma’am. I didn’t know.” The owner made his way back into the record shop, shaking his head.
“Thomas, why don’t you come to the Mission tomorrow?” asked Julie. “They will be serving a special Christmas dinner from 12 to 4. The food is free. I will be there serving the food. I will also see if I can find a better place for you to stay. You shouldn’t have to stay in an abandoned building. Nobody should. So, will I see you at the Mission tomorrow, Thomas?”
“I’ll think about it, Julie. I have a lot on my mind, right now.”
“It’s okay. There’s no pressure.” They both shook hands and parted.
“Hey, momma. Can we go to the Mission tomorrow to feed the homeless people?” said little Frankie.
“I don’t know, Frankie,” replied the mother. “You know how your father gets about those people. He thinks they are trying to cheat the system.”
“Momma. They are hungry. Please!” Frankie looked into his mother’s eyes with sadness. She tried her best to hold back the tears, but they had a mind of their own. I wish this boy did not have such a big heart, she thought.
“Okay. I will try to talk to your father about it, but no promises. You know how stubborn your father is.”
“Thank you, momma.” Frankie gave his mom a big hug. Tammy brushed Frankie’s hair with her hands.
It was crowded at Jake’s Café. The sandwiches were awesome. Boy, did Jake know how to make panini sandwiches! They weren’t dry like the traditional ones you normally buy. These were juicy and made your mouth water just thinking about it. The coffee was also to die for. The owner would roast the beans every Saturday. There weren’t too many places that roasted beans these days. But there was nothing that Jake wouldn’t do to make his customers happy. At his shop, he knew the customers by name. You weren’t treated like a number.
“What can I get for you guys today?” asked the waitress.
“I’ll take the spinach salad,” replied Melissa. “And a bowl of your cream of broccoli soup. And to drink, I’ll take Jake’s Famous Coffee Brew.”
“I’ll take the French dip sandwich with fries,” said Ted. “And I’ll have a café mocha and a glass of water.”
“I’ll have the turkey pannini with the side salad, and Jake’s Famous Coffee Brew,” I replied. “Oh, and water, too.” Melissa raised her eyebrows up and down in a rapid motion when she heard that I was ordering the same drink. I winked at her. Ted winked at me. The waitress looked at us like were crazy. I least I can’t say my job is boring, she thought. She smiled.
“Alright,” said the waitress. “I’ll bring these out to you as soon as possible.”
“Hey Sara, I’m looking forward in seeing your new artwork at the gallery tonight,” stated Melissa. “May I ask what you’ve painted, or is it a secret?” I made a zip gesture across my mouth.
“It’s not a secret. The artwork features portraits of the homeless people that I have met in Oregon. It’s sad that many of them are misunderstood. Most people think that they are all drug addicts or drunks. That’s a misnomer. They are human beings just like you and me. If you cut them, they bleed. Just like we do.”
“That’s wonderful, Sara. I’m glad to hear that you are doing your part to help the world.”
“Plus, I owe a lot to the homeless man that taught me to confront my fears. In a sense, this art show is dedicated to him.” Ted smiled. He placed his hand over mine. “Also, Ted and I are volunteering at the Mission tomorrow to feed the homeless. Do you want to join us, Melissa?”
“Actually, I’m performing there with my band.” Ted and I smiled. Did I tell you I love this girl!
The Selini house was just in sight. Jacob was glad to be home. He could even smell the aroma of Tammy’s cooking from outside. This is going to be great, he thought. Jacob unlocked the door and entered.
“I’m home,” Jacob announced. Little Frankie ran up to his father and gave him a big hug.
“Hi papa,” said Frankie.
“Hey there little Frankie. Where’s momma?” Tammy came out of the kitchen and kissed her husband on the lips.
“Hi dear, I'm glad you’re home. Dinner is ready.” Jacob smiled. I can’t wait to get my hands on the food, he thought.
Jacob walked into the dining room and was delighted with all the yummy food on the table. There was turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, salad, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls. Enough food to feed a king! He wouldn’t be starving tonight.
On the other side of town, a man was literally starving. He hadn’t eaten anything for two days. He only had 65 cents to his name. It wasn’t enough to by a 99 cent hamburger. For many people, a dollar was a drop in the bucket, but for this man, it was the difference between an empty stomach and full one.
“Jacob, can we go to the Mission tomorrow?” asked Tammy.
“What on Earth for?” replied Jacob.
“Little Frankie wants to help feed the homeless.”
“Sorry dear. I’m not going to feed those fakers. Not when they make more money than me. No way, Jose.” Having heard this, Little Frankie began to cry. The father felt bad, but he was not going to take his son to the Mission. “Hey, Frankie, I got a better idea. My boss gave me tickets to an art show tonight. How ‘bout that?” Little Frankie really didn’t like that, but he was told to respect his parents. He nodded his head in agreement. “It’s settled then. We are going to the art show.”
The art show was a smash. People were very impressed with my artwork. They were amazed on how I was able to paint the homeless people with such passion. I told them of my special encounters with them, and even explained that one of them turned my life around. This wise man taught me to conquer my fears. I will never forgot him.
“This is awesome, babe,” stated Ted. He then kissed me.
“Thanks honey,” I replied. “You know how much I appreciate your support.”
“Hey guys,” announced Melissa. “Here comes a family to check out Sara’s work.” A small boy around five years of age ran up to the paintings and began to gently touch them. He had tears in his eyes as he did this. The father got nervous.
“Frankie. Don’t touch the artwork!” shouted the father.
“It’s okay,” I said. “He can touch them.” I smiled at the little boy. He smiled back. “Oh, I’m sorry, my name is Sara. I’m the artist of these painting. This is my husband, Ted, and my best friend, Melissa.”
“Nice to meet you all. My name is Jacob, and this is my wife, Tammy, and my son, Frankie.”
“These are homeless people, papa,” said Little Frankie, pointing at the paintings.
“No they're not, son,” replied the father. “Those are just something from Sara’s imagination. They aren’t real.”
“Actually, they are,” I declared. Jacob looked confused. “These are of people that I have personally met. They are real people that live on the streets.”
“You must be mistaken Miss. These people live in mansions. They are out to scam people.”
“It is true that there are people in the world that scam people, but these individuals actually live on the street. Many of them have lost their homes during the big financial collapse. They lost their jobs, their savings, and to top it off, their homes. It’s a struggle for these people to find food. They have to search through garbage cans for recyclables in hopes of cashing them in for a hot meal.”
“I ran into a guy today that asked for some change. I thought he was an actor, trying to scam me. It’s hard for me to understand this.”
“Why don’t you join us tomorrow at the Mission? We are feeding the homeless a special Christmas meal. Bring your wife and son. We will be there from 12 to 4. I think it will help you understand these people better.”
“Please papa,” asked Frankie. His eyes were full of compassion and love.
“Okay son. We’ll go.”
It was a beautiful Christmas day. The sky was clear as far as the eye could see. There wasn’t any sign of smog. The strong winds blew them away. Thank God! In the summer, it is a different story of course. Sometimes, the smog is so thick that you cannot see the mountains in the distance, but that wasn’t true today. In fact, you could see the snow that covered the mountain peaks. It was a gorgeous site! And speaking of gorgeous, the special dinner that was being held at the Mission for the homeless was absolutely beautiful.
There were three banquet tables loaded with delicious food. Turkey, ham, fresh veggies, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, tossed salad, dinner roles, and several fresh pies were for the taking. They also had vegetarian dishes for those that didn’t eat meat. To the left of the tables was a stage that was set up for this special event. Melissa and her band were going to put on a special show for today’s guests. If it was anything like yesterday’s performance, the guests and volunteers were in for a special treat. The mayor was also here. We were told that he had a special announcement. I hope it’s good, I thought. The local newspaper was here. And I also heard that a couple of celebrities may pay a visit. That would be nice. It is important for the public to be aware of the problem of homelessness. A woman in her early thirties made her way to the banquet table.
“Hi everyone, my name is Julie Parks. I’m here to help serve the food.”
“Nice to meet you, Julie,” I replied. “My name is Sara, and this is my husband, Ted, and my good friend, Melissa. She’s performing today.”
“That’s wonderful. I’m looking forward to hearing you play, Melissa. It is nice to meet you all.”
“Thanks Julie,” said Melissa. “It should be a great show. These people need something positive in their life. It is absolutely amazing how many people went out of their way to help today. The city brought in some portable showers, for those that want to get cleaned up. There were several shops, as well as the Salvation Army, that donated a ton of clothes and shoes for this special cause.”
“That’s wonderful,” replied Julie. “It’s nice to know that people want to help. I believe we are here to help one another. What good is it to watch people suffer?”
“I agree. People shouldn’t have to suffer, when we can lend a hand,” I stated. I then spotted the family that we met yesterday at the art show. I am glad they decided to come, I thought. “Hey guys, over here! I’m happy you made it.”
“I decided to give it a try,” replied Jacob. “I felt there was something important that was going to take place today. I know if I didn’t come that I may end up regretting it. So, here I am.”
“I think this will be a good experience for you and your family. Your son is amazing! He is very compassionate and loving. Where does he get that from? if you don’t mind my asking.”
“Surely not from me!” We all had a good laugh. Jacob was starting loosen up a bit. I felt happy for him. “My wife is very compassionate and loving, like Frankie. These two are amazing!” stated Jacob, pointing to his wife and son. “They both love to connect with nature and animals. It’s like they understand their language. I can’t describe it. It’s something that you’ll have to see with your own eyes.”
“That’s beautiful,” Ted stated. “Jacob, I don’t believe we’ve introduced you and your family to Julie.”
“Hello. It’s nice to meet you, Julie,” said Jacob. “This is my wife, Tammy, and my son, Frankie.”
We made sure that everyone got properly introduced. There were about 15 servers here. It’s important to know who you are working with. At least that is what I believe. I was sad that Melissa couldn’t help us serve; she had to get ready for the show.
At noon, many of the homeless folks began to arrive. Many were pleased at all the food on the table. They were also informed of the free clothes and shoes and were told that they were welcome to use the showers that were provided for them. But it was hard for many to accept these generous gifts, because of the fact that many of them have been shunned by society for such a long time. Others welcomed the gifts. Some were very excited to take a shower. To be clean again! How refreshing, thought some of the homeless individuals.
After the people got settled in, they made their way to the food table. There were probably about 25 people in line. All waiting for the first real meal that they had in God knows how long.
“Load it up,” replied one individual.
“I want a lot of turkey,” replied another. “And a lot of green beans, too.”
“A lot of mashed potatoes and gravy for me,” stated an older man in his late fifties.”
“Hey, Thomas,” said Julie. “I’m glad you made it. Hey everyone, this is Thomas. I used to work with him. Those jerks laid off one of the best workers we ever had. It now takes three people to do his job. The company got very greedy. They laid off all the workers that were forty years and over, and hired a bunch of young people for minimum wage. Those fools were better off with the experienced workers; they knew what they were doing. It’s sad when companies don’t value experience. They value money more than the people.”
“I remember you,” stated Jacob, pointing at Thomas. “I’m so sorry for doubting you yesterday. I’m an old stubborn fool. Can you forgive me?”
“Of course,” replied Thomas. “You were told wrong information. I’m sure that you can see that this is real.”
“Yes, I do. I learned a lot at the art gallery last night. We have this beautiful soul, right here,” stated Jacob, pointing at Sara. “She is an angel that opened my eyes to reality. Homelessness is a real problem. We, as a society, should help those that are less fortunate than us.” Jacob’s wife, Tammy, being touched by Jacob’s words, caressed his back. She knew her husband had a heart, deep down.
“I have an announcement,” stated the mayor. “Ted and Julie, come up here!” Ted and Julie made their way up to the stage. “Ladies and gentlemen I want to thank you for being our guests here this afternoon. We know that you do not have home to call your own, but we are doing our best to change that around. Ted has agreed to help the city in reconstructing the old abandoned buildings for a home for the homeless. His expertise in eco-friendly building will be utilized. You will be able to stay at the Rene Jones Sports Complex until the construction is complete. We will provide cots and blankets for you.”
The crowd applauded.
“Julie has offered to help with job training and job placement. She will also help you with resumes and other necessary job prep skills. We are not going to throw you out to the world without having the necessary skills.”
The crowd applauded.
“I am well of aware of the trouble it is for homeless people to find a job. They don’t have an address to put on the job application. That won’t be a problem here. You can use the address of the facility. The homeless will not have to leave until they have established a steady job and had some time to build up some savings.”
“I also want to share that two Hollywood celebrities have decided to donate two million dollars to help with the reconstruction. Give these people a hand.”
The crowd applauded.
“I want to thank you all for being my guests here tonight. Now, let’s hear some entertainment. Ready, Melissa. Alright. Enjoy the show.”
Melissa and her band played another awesome show. The crowd loved it! Many could not remember the last time they had this much fun. For most homeless, life was a constant struggle. Where to get food. Where to find shelter. It was not fun begging for money. This was very degrading. And so was looking through trash cans for recyclables. It took a great deal of energy to earn a dollar. Some did not eat for days at a time.
“You know. I hope the mayor’s program puts an end to homelessness,” stated Melissa.
“If it doesn’t,” I replied, “we will keep trying until we succeed. After all, we, humans should help our fellow brothers and sisters. I don’t think life is only about the accumulation of things. It is about making a difference in this world.”
“Amen!” declared Ted.
At the Selini household, it was bedtime for little Frankie. Jacob was tucking him in.
“Papa, I’m proud of you,” stated Frankie.
“Why thank you, son!” replied his father.
“Even Jesus would be proud of you. Today is Jesus’ birthday! It’s the celebration of the great master teacher. He taught love, compassion, and forgiveness to the world. Papa, you demonstrated these things today!”
“Yes, I surprised myself today. You’re a great teacher, Frankie. You have a lot of wisdom for a little guy. Where did you learn it?” Frankie put his hand on his father’s heart.
“Right here, papa. You can go there anytime. You are this place called love!”
Melissa, Ted, and I were enjoying a nice cup of coffee in front of a nice cozy fire. There was nothing better than a nice warm cup of Joe with the people you love. The fire was a warm welcome from the cold outside.
“You know guys,” I announced, “this was one of the best Christmas’ ever. We got to help those in need. It is amazing how powerful love and kindness are! Melissa, you have touched the world with your music. The world is grateful for your love and passion. Ted, my love, your love for humanity and the planet is absolutely beautiful. We are making a difference in this world. Cheers to a better world!”
“Cheers!” replied Ted and Melissa.
The following morning Jacob went to fetch the newspaper. He pulled off the rubber band and smiled. On the front page of the paper featured an article about the special Christmas dinner at the Mission. The article was heartfelt and powerful. The article featured many nice photos, including one of him, serving food to the homeless. A teardrop fell from his eye. He was a forever changed man.
For those that are interesting in reading the article, the piece is entitled “A Christmas Day to Remember.”
First, I want to thank my sister, Linda, for her dedication in helping others (Actually, the idea for this story came from her). Your big heart is greatly appreciated. Next, I would like to thank barbergirl28 and my other followers for their positive comments and support. I greatly appreciate your support guys. Thank you. I also want to thank my friend, Marilyn, for her continued support. Lastly, I want to thank my Soul Buddy, Julie, for her love and support. You are an awesome friend, Julie. I am very lucky to have you in my life. And to my new readers, thank you for stopping by. If you like what you read, feel free stop by again.
Peace, Love, and Light,