Blogs by Micki Peluso
Homless for the Holidays
11/23/2008 8:09:03 PM
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HOMELESS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Christmas carols waft through the crisp December air, as the steady clang of Salvation Army Santas sets the pace for shoppers hustling from store to store. The magnificent Rockefeller Christmas tree heralds the promise of Yuletide celebrations, ushering in the season of love and joy.
But for thousands of homeless people in New York City and other large cities across the nation, the season is a harbinger of ongoing struggle. Huddled in alleys, bus terminals, doorways and other temporary hovels, attempting to ease the relentless chill of winter, they find no joy.
Some keep their faces to the ground, too hungry and lethargic to honor the Christ child's birth. Others glance up, perhaps searching for a special star to offer solace to a life of misery; more likely hoping for better handouts from the Christmas crowds, who often feel more generous at this time of the year. Years ago, a handful of change could temporarily stem the ever-present gnawing of a tortured stomach, but inflation and the sad state of the economy has reached even the street people and today a dollar won't even buy them a loaf of bread. New York City, having the largest population also has the largest number of people for whom Christmas is just another exercise in survival, but the number is growing larger in cities everywhere in the country.
Perhaps it is the fear of "there but for the grace of God, go I" mentality that keeps us from recognizing these people and addressing the biblical question, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
Now that the holidays are upon us, what better time to reevaluate our priorities. We live in a country of great contrasts, from the extremely wealthy through the middle class to the struggling poor class. Not enough of us consider the "no" class, the people who have nothing, because to acknowledge the problem necessitates a resolution.
Still, the day after Christmas there will be those who will ponder the words of an old Peggy Lee hit, "Is That All There Is," because too often Christ is removed from Christmas and we sense, but cannot name, the hollow feeling left after the hectic rush to make one day memorable. The homeless, crouched around garbage can fires, or sleeping over subway grates to catch the warmth of a passing train, do not have the luxury of such contemplation.
As our world grows steadily smaller, the plight of the homeless becomes a national concern, bringing crime, disease and poverty closer to our doorstep. Yet, we prefer to cringe and turn away rather than initiate a solution.
No one appreciates a guilt trip during the Christmas Season and no one wants visions of hungry people interrupting the Christmas feast, overflowing with homemade delicacies, cookies, and candy canes hanging from decorated trees. We work for what we have and deserve the rewards of our labor. True. But in the spirit of the holiday it is important to remember that 2000 years ago, the new born Babe lay in a manure-filled stable in Bethlehem, on a straw manger of questionable cleanliness, wrapped in swaddling clothes that did not come from Macy's Department Store.
Emphasis over the years has weighed heavily upon material gifts. Charge cards with deferred payments into the next year promote a gluttony of expenditure that has little to do with the meaning of Christmas. The legendary little drummer boy had nothing but a song to offer the Christ child. His gift was cherished more than the gold, frankincense and myrrh of the magi, because it was a gift of pure love.
This Season let us all think about how much we have and how fortunate we are to be celebrating the holidays with loved ones, instead of on a filthy, damp, cold floor in Grand Central Station, or dirty city sidewalk. Above all, let us love one another.
If we can extend that love to the homeless street people, and open our hearts to their endless plight, the next holiday season may witness a solution to our mutual shame. Love is a self-perpetuating emotion; all it takes to activate it is to exchange it among ourselves and to those less fortunate. It is the ultimate gift, because it always comes back to us threefold.
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Book review from MADDvocate magazine - Thursday, November 27, 2008
Homless for the Holidays - Sunday, November 23, 2008
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HOW TO BECOME A MILD-MANNERED REPORTER - Friday, October 31, 2008
Reflections on Motherhood - Sunday, October 19, 2008
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