Monday, December 15, 2008

The woman with the cart

She was walking along Old Broadway pulling a cart filled with what appeared to be some kind of seed. She looked haggard, all bundled up in a too-large blue jacket, weary from her journey.

I watched the woman dragging her cart this morning and couldn't help but wonder about her life. I don't know if she was struggling financially, lived nearby or simply didn't have a car. But, for some reason, it made me sad.

Seems we're reminded every day just how fortunate we are.

Work took me up to Hillcrest nursing home on Saturday. A Halls Middle School student had collected more than 300 stuffed animals and pairs of socks to give to each resident at the facility.

Some of the residents were barely lucid; others were alert and quite cheerful. One man said he didn't want a stuffed animal; a little later, though, he decided he'd take one. As I drove away, the thought crossed my mind that the girl's simple gesture might be the only Christmas present some of those folks receive.

We spend so much time rushing to stores, seeking the perfect gift, wasting too much money on junk we'll forget about come springtime. Oh, don't get me wrong, a little bit of that is OK, especially for kids. Real gifts, though, lie elsewhere.

You know about the babe in a manger and what it brought to the world.

I find little gifts every day -- in a bittersweet love song, in the eyes of a girl that takes my breath away, in the look a child gets when discovering something for the first time.

Sometimes somebody will call just to say hello. That is a precious (and rare) little present. If nothing else, silver shines in the stars and gold gleams in the morning sun.

All of this, and heaven too, mean more than anything wrapped in pretty paper with my name on it under the Christmas tree. What's funny, and pathetic, is that it took a woman walking with a cart by the side of the road for me to realize it.

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