Christmas glow

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It was near the end of office-party season just before Christmas many moons ago. I was rushing out of a well-known hotel in downtown Montreal into a nasty day, with the wind blowing snow twisters down the street and spinning tires howling away. The grey, slushy frozen crap that turns you into a clay statuette thanks to a slight slip of a shoe made it a dark, cold and dirty holiday evening. As I buttoned up some more and tightened my hoodie, I watch two immaculately dressed suits with impeccable hair walk out into the winter, and quickly freeze in their fashionista garb. Shuddering, they turn back and ask the doorman for a cab. Within minutes, they disappear in a freezing cloud of exhaust.

I have a pocketful of money thanks to a well-earned travel allowance and was out for some last-minute shopping. I stop at the end of the drive-in and breathe some cold air, before I turn onto the street. It’s dark and in one of the small doorways of those mini-diners offering eggs, bacon, toast and coffee for only $1.99, there sat someone who obviously was shivering to death. Barely two metres away I notice that he has this hood similar to those a Sith Overlord would wear. His bare hands are incredibly wrinkled and rest on his shaking knees.

I got closer and quickly thought about the money burning a hole in my pocket and decided to help him out. I couldn’t help but feel for this shivering soul and his incredible need for food and shelter. His face hidden by his ominous hood, he held his hand out. His hands shook so hard it gave me the chills. I felt the harsh cold and wondered how cold could this guy be, sitting there and begging for handout. My fingers grasp a crisp bill and I hand it to him. It was a $100 offer, but he didn’t want to take it. “It’s too much,” he said.

I replied, “No, it’s not. You need it more than I do.” His shaking hand reached out and took the money. He looked up at me, all wrinkly and gnarly, then smiled with happiness. His features brightened up with that smile and wished me a Merry Christmas. I had an epiphany and this wonderful feeling welled up inside me when I saw his smile. A tear ran down my face, but it quickly froze on my cheek. I quickly scooted out of there and headed towards the whining tires and frozen slushy streets of downtown Montreal.

To this day, I think about this poor man and wonder if I made a difference in his life. But in fact, it made a difference to me. Whenever I think of that moment, it still stirs up these emotions in me and makes me remember what giving really means. It really means giving – what more can I say?

In return, the good feeling we get and the fact that we can’t regret it either makes it worthwhile for one’s own self-worth and signals one’s desires to check those indicators within you, to give more often. Most times, this sense of self-gratification and esteem boosting can last a full year. This is good, once a year. We often celebrate other occasions and spend much more than charity, but I guess karma balances it out down the road.

For that poor guy I helped that night, I hope it was worth it for him and hopefully it turned into a bed and some meals for a few days. I was pretty confident he wasn’t some desperate drug addict and probably had a much better life before, or at worse, was suffering from something he regretted later in life so it made me feel Christmas in its rough reality for those who cannot help themselves and are homeless and destitute. Give a little – or a lot – and perhaps it might make the world a little better.

Merry Christmas everyone and enjoy the cold winter season in your warm homes without regrets.

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