A Christmas Tale:
This is a tale that I know very well, for I had the pleasure of watching the events unfold.
However one must remember it all began on cold December in 1973, when I was but
A child of three, and now thirty years have gone by, and wealth untold have I,
Nevertheless, this would have never been, if it were not for the kindness of a stranger back then.
But before I go to far, I will tell you of a man that I just watched leave “Dinky’s Bar”.
For some reason then that I could not explain, I was drawn to this man so shabby and plain.
I trailed at a distance and just watched this man this day. I must confess, I cannot explain
For I have seen hundreds just like him every day, but I will be quite now for a while…just
Follow me as we walk together this mile…for I watched as this man…walked alone….
Alone down a cold and lonely street, walks a man of yesterday’s sorrows.
His clothes are worn, and his hair unshorn, and he has no shoes for his feet.
He bares the scars of another day, for his face is misshapen and torn.
Passers by look the other way, yet little children are more brazen and say
“Hey momma, look at that man over there, he looks like a freak.”
I drop my head as I hear these words said, for they are most unkind,
But, I follow him still as he weaves his way past the Christmas crowd
To an alley off of 32nd and Devine. I hesitate for just a moment
To let him clear his way, for past cans of refuse and waste he climbs.
Until he reaches an outcrop of tin, all gown over in thorny stinging vines.
It is here that he lives, I thought to myself and I watch as he retrieves a bottle of wine.
With me in my suit of gray, I walked slowly his way, here I am thought I
Walking toward this man…but why? Why was I drawn this way, and when
I reached the man, what would I say? I could offer him a few bucks and then
Go my own way, I mean after all it was Christmas Eve.
“Good afternoon sir”, I heard myself say, “is there anything I can do to help today”?
He looked up at me with eyes of distrust, and I could see the scars that ravaged
His old face and I then found the only words to say was, “Oh My, what happened to you”?
Alas though, to my surprise, he slowly began to speak, “ why don’t you leave me alone,
Can’t you see I am a freak”? Yet I persisted to know why, why was this man this way,
And to my amazement he told me his story complete.
“You know boy, I wasn’t always this way, I was only 23 when fortune dealt me this blow,
for I was walking down the street 30 years ago to the day, it was then that I spotted a
small child perched on a window ledge, smoke was billowing forth and flames licked
at his legs. There was this crowd that had gathered around and was telling the boy to jump,
I guess they thought it better to hit the ground, than to catch fire and burn up.
An uneasy feeling began to sweep over me, for horrible memories I had hidden deep,
Still the old man continued at what he was saying, and inwardly, silently, I began praying.
“Well you see, it was like this, I made my way to the door of the burning flat and raced inside.
The flames were climbing all over the walls, as up the burning stairs I crawled. I finally reach
This little boy and I pull him in from that windowsill. I wrap him up in a blanket from his bed
And back down the burning stairs I fled. When I reached the outside, it was then that I noticed
That there was nothing left on my hide. Burnt my face clean up it did, but I guess that was all right
Cause I did save the kid. They all called me a hero back then, and the doctors even tried to graft
My skin, but I still turned out in a most horrible way…I lost my job because of this and was never
able to hold another. I just sank deeper into this endless pit and live my life in sorrow.
So now you know how old Joe became the man he is today”. “Now Mr. Rich man, what do now have to say”?
Say? Did he want to know what I had to say? In honesty, I could not even speak, for tears that were choking
me and rolling like river down my cheek. For I recalled the day that he so graphically spoke of, I recall it well,
for I was the little boy that he had saved from a burning hell. At last, I knew why I had been drawn to him today
It was now my turn, his kindness to repay, and repay I did, for I took the stranger who had saved me as a kid
And put him up in my penthouse so grand, I offered everything that I did own, but he declined and hoped I was not mad.
So now you have my Christmas tale and know that all turned out well. But this to you I will ask, who do you know
That you can too rescue. For the world is full of people like Joe.
J. Allen Wilson © 12-24-2003