A Christmas to Remember?

I had left my coat at home today.  I’m from Minnesota, Land of over 10,000 Frozen Solid Lakes – so when I saw that it was going to be 49 degrees today in Denver, I pulled out the bikini.  Well, actually I don’t own a bikini – so I blessed the world by putting pants and a top on.

I had a salon/spa meeting in downtown Denver today, so I efficiently located the parking garage FURTHEST from my destination that cost the MOST per hour, and parked there.  Another Jenius moment, I know.  After walking 39.7283 blocks in dress shoes and a silk blouse, I had some time to re-think the “no coat” thing.  F-f-f-ortunat-at-ately I f-f-f-f-ound m-my way the-the-there,  {teeth chattering}, had my meeting as I thawed out, and then headed back into the balmy outdoors.

Just a  couple miles shy of my parking garage {ugh}, I was stopped by a young fellow, his girlfriend linked on his arm.  “Excuse me ma’am…”  {Note to Self: I am officially old enough to be “ma’am” – good to know.}  “We’re real hungry and wondering if you’ll buy us dinner.”  My f-f-f-face lit up-p-p-p {still shivering here}.  Of course, since life is ALL about me, I quickly considered the pros of this situation.  First of all, I just moved to Denver and really don’t have any friends yet…so having a dinner conversation with anyone besides myself sounded great.  Second of all, I had missed lunch and was starving.  Really, they could not have targeted a more perfect candidate to beg food from.

“Sure!  What sounds good?”  The look on their faces told me that was not the response they normally got.  They told me anything was fine and because they knew the city better than I, we started walking down a long dark alley…just kidding mom – gotcha 😉  …so we started walking {down a bustling city street with plenty of law enforcements and strong men to rescue me if things went south}.  As we walked, I asked them questions about life.

Turns out they were from North Carolina and had made it all the way to Denver.  They were currently staying in a 5-star tent…minus the 5-stars.  She used to waitress and he used to work on websites.  They said it was hard to get jobs here without resumes and an address and computer access.  Suddenly, my question asking was interrupted as they stopped walking.

Why are we STOPPING!!!  Can’t these homeless people see that I’m freezing and starving!?!?!  {usually, it’s the homeless that are asking that question, but like I said…it’s ALLLL about me, right?}  The young man said, “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry,” and started crying.  The girl was wiping tears from her eyes as well.

Here it comes.  They feel bad that they are about to kill me and take my purse.  So then I felt bad that THEY felt so bad about it.  I mean, if they were hardened criminals about to kill me, I at least thought they should act the part.  “What’s the matter?” I asked, trying to console my potential killers.  “We lied to you, ma’am.”  {ENOUGH WITH THE MA’AM THING!  I’m trying to savor these last 2 months of my youth before the big 3-0 sets in!!!}

They explained that they were really trying to get cash to get bus tickets out west.  “I’m so sorry I lied to you.  Goodbye ma’am,” he said sniffling.  Wait a second, what about dinner?  I was STARVING!  I insisted that it was okay and that I still wanted to buy them dinner.  She started crying even more, as he said they still had food stamps and they didn’t want to make me do that.  I tried to tell them it didn’t matter, but he just kept saying over and over, “I’m just so sorry I lied to you.”

We parted ways, all of us cold, all of us hungry.  The difference is, I’m home now with my heat on in front of my fireplace.  I wish I could say the same for my Denver friends…

This is the first year that I won’t be home for Christmas. Ever!  Strange as it feels and sad as it may be, I feel that there is something strangely and uniquely beautiful in being far from home at Christmas.  It has really given me time to wonder…who else is without this Christmas?  I wonder how many elderly will be sitting in nursing homes.  I wonder how many kids will be playing in a shelter or agency of some sort.  I wonder what the Christmas season would feel like to those eating at a homeless shelter…mashed potatoes straight from the ice cream scooper from someone wearing a hair net.

Who else is out there this Christmas?  Is it possible that this holiday that has meant so much to me throughout the years, will suddenly mean so very much more in 2010?  Strangely, I really hope so.

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