I cannot begin to wrap my brain around the fact that Christmas is six days away, as it just has not felt like Christmas at all this year. Maybe, it has been the unseasonably warm weather we have been enjoying lately. Maybe, it is because I have been busier than usual at work for the past six weeks. Maybe, it is because this truly is one of my least favorite times of the year. Whatever the reason, contrary to the popular Christmas carol, it is not beginning to look (or feel) a lot like Christmas, but that may have begun to change today.
This morning, I was out doing home visits with some of our clients who are in one of our permanent supportive housing programs, so, I did not return to the day shelter for homeless men until shortly before lunch. When I entered, it was much calmer and quieter than when I left earlier that morning, as many men were at lunch, working, going to appointments, etc. The television was on in the background, some men were chatting with one another, and there was the low talking and laughter of some of the staff and volunteers at the front desk. Then, I heard something so beautiful that it gave me pause in the midst of my hectic day and brought tears to my eyes.
There was a group of gentlemen playing cards near my office, which is part of their daily routine, but today, they did something sweetly surprising. There they were playing cards while singing “Silent Night” with one of our case managers, Vickie. I walked up and stood silently, at first, just taking it all in, before joining the men and Vickie in the final verses. Together, we all sang softly, ” . . .and sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.” When they finished, I applauded, and then, I retreated to the privacy of my office and wept.
“Silent Night” always has been one of my favorite Christmas carols, but I have never heard it sung so beautifully as I did by this small group of men. It was not lost on me that these men, whose lives are anything but calm and bright and their nights anything but silent, were singing some of the most poignant and tender lyrics ever written. They were singing of things that few of them have known in a very long time, if ever, and they will wake up on Christmas morning as they do every morning, some of them for ten, fifteen, or twenty or more years, in an emergency overnight shelter, in a well-hidden camp, or in what the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) calls “places not meant for human habitation”, such as a car, under an overpass, an abandoned building, etc. There truly is no room at the inn for them, and they do not sleep in heavenly peace.
Yet, this most unlikely band of singers gave me the most precious present I ever could receive. They gave me some of their very own unique Christmas spirit and reminded me that the gifts of hope, faith, and love abound, even in the most dire of situations and among the most desperate of people. They are all precious gifts, even if their wrapping is tattered and well-worn, and when given a chance, they shine brighter than all the Christmas lights in the world. So, on this silent night, thanks to their very presence in this world, it is a holy night indeed, and my prayer for them is that it is calm and bright wherever they are.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story