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Homeless at Christmas

Let’s hope this homeless lady gets home for Christmas. “Please help. Trying to get home for Christmas.”

That’s the sign a poor lady on the side of the road was holding some years ago. I have to say — seeing her begging during the Christmas season – with teeth unkept and clothes shabby – brought a lump to my throat. I couldn’t help it.

I know. She may make more money in a day than we make in a week. And I know — it could be that she uses the money for improper uses.

But I couldn’t think about those things as I rolled down my window and handed her a little money and asked:

“Where’s home?”

“Oklahoma,” she said, kindly. “I want to go to Oklahoma for Christmas to see my two kids.”

“I hope you make it,” I said. “I really hope you do.”

The light turned green, and she said “God bless you,” and my daughter Rachel and I pressed on about our holiday business — buying gifts, hustling and bustling around.

After a moment, I looked over and could tell Rach — a teenager back then — was still processing that little scene.

“I don’t know whether that girl was really in need or not,” I said. “But whatever brings a person to stand on the corner of a street to beg for money is sad.”

Especially during the holidays. I’ve carried that little memory with me for more than a decade, especially when I’ve been with my own family during Christmas. And I thought of all the things I hope to do over the next couple of weeks — and the things you are likely to be doing, too.

The list is long: Drink a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows. Roast marshmallows in the fireplace. Open presents in front of the fire and watch faces glow. Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Home Alone” for the hundredth time. Eat fudge and chocolate covered cherries and pretzels dipped in white chocolate. Play cards around the kitchen table. Sleep late and wake to the sound of cartoons and the smell of breakfast cooking.

I hope that all of you get a chance to be home this year, too. I hope you gather with your families and loved ones and at least do a few of the things on this list, with joy.

And somewhere up in Oklahoma, I hope there’s a young lady who once stood on the side of the road, now opening presents and singing Christmas tunes with two happy kids who call her mom.

If that little dream comes true, that’ll sure be a blessing. That’ll means that there’s one less person homeless this Christmas.