Let's face it. Holiday miracles really only happen in children's books and Hallmark channel movies. But I think I witnessed a true miracle last week. See that lady in the above picture? She is a homeless person; one of an army of such people who regularly navigate the underbelly of this land of paradise. Alfred and I take a walk every afternoon. It isn't far down the road to one of the main thoroughfares of Largo. Sometimes we go into Wal-Mart just to get a few extra steps in (for me) and something interesting to look at (for her). Nestled within the parking lot is a Burger King. McDonald's is the other way but Alfred doesn't like their synthetic ice cream as much as she likes Burger King's synthetic stuff. Our usual routine is to get a cup of ice cream and three cookies: one for us, one for our crossing guard and one for Norah when she gets off from school. See that little foot in the picture? That's Alfred's, we were in line, right behind the homeless lady.
After the lady ordered she then took that backpack/purse thing and started rummaging through it attempting to find the money to pay for it. She would flip the bag this way and that and scour the bottom in search of pennies, dimes and whatever to make the transaction. We waiting quite a while as she buffeted that bag every which way trying to find the coinage. There was a sea of coins on the counter and the clerk was being patient as she searched. I reached into my back pocket and extracted my billfold and was going to pay if she couldn't come up with it. I didn't want to interfere because my impression of the homeless are they are sometimes proud and want simply to be left alone. I also did not want to be seen as condescending or pushy.
So we waited. After an uncomfortably long time the put the final coins on the counter and with a brisk precision, the clerk counted them up and returned to her a couple pennies in change. And you know what she did?
She took those two pennies and placed them into the donation box sitting next to the cash register. Think about that a second. A lonely homeless woman, gave away perhaps her last 2 cents (it certainly looked like it the way she was scabbing around that bag) to help others.
I was dumbfounded. I wanted to tell the world about the selfless act of giving I had witnessed. This will have to do. I wanted to find her after I got our order and give her something but when Alfred and I sat down with out treats she had vanished. Her shopping cart of belongings were probably stashed somewhere nearby and she wanted to return to it for safekeeping.
This Christmas I will be thinking of the lady we waited behind at Burger King. I will attempt to keep her in my thoughts throughout the year as a reminder that good deeds need not cost a lot; that kindness ripples like a rock tossed in a pond, and keep giving whenever we make the effort. If a homeless woman who has nothing can do it, can I do less? I think she was a messenger of sorts: a gentle but unmistakable reminder that in an era of divisive politics, hard hearts and blindness to others travails, we ultimately are bound to each other.
"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"