Lowell approached me today with a notepad. We’d both been up since 4:30, because the shelter woke them all up at that hour and kicked them back out into the cold and my alarm in my warm soft bed signaling my departure to meet them. The parking lot we met in was blustery. It was 20 degrees, but his spirit was warm.
“Read it and tell me what you think,” he said. “Give me your honest opinion.”
I read his notebook entry and smiled. “It’s great!” I said. “Can I take it and publish it?”
Lowell smiled. I told him I’d submit it this week with my article, to the newspaper I write a column for about the homeless. The title of his short essay was “Don’t wake me I’ll come up swinging.”
The child wrote the letter to his father and tucked it away. Each morning he woke up, snuck quietly down to the fireplace hearth, and checked the stocking with his very own name on it.
It was a week before Christmas.
There were two stockings there, not three and each day it was that one thought that stayed. Like small splinter that wouldn’t go away. He felt it. It was there.
On one morning as he crept out and did it once more, his mother caught him peeking inside.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said, turning around sheepishly.
He pulled his hand out of the stocking and stood there. Caught red handed.
The mother walked over and reached down deep, until she found a piece of crumpled paper. It was crammed into the toe of the velvet stocking with the child’s name on it. The child lunged for it.
“Give it back!” he said, tears welling in his eyes. The tears spilled over and slid down his cheeks. The mother pulled the paper away from him and read it.
I don’t want anything for Christmas. Last year I saw you at the mall and asked you for my daddy. I just want to talk to him, one day. Please make him call me or send me a note. This year I figured that you aren’t really real so I prayed to God to bring my dad to me. I am writing this letter just in case you are real.
Merry Christmas to all the fatherless children. Remember that God is your father and that it doesn’t matter who your biological parents were. I first heard that message delivered by TD Jakes on Christmas and it changed my life. I pondered that thought for days. As a child who’s father didn’t step up, ever, I lived with the splinter, the shard of glass for a lifetime. The absence is hard to describe. It is a void that can’t be filled by any human words or intervention. It’s a wound that really never heals. Sometimes when I talked with my friend Harry, who is a homeless man living on the street, I feel the same void in his eyes. He has no expectations. No joy, no love. The street has robbed him, though his words are positive, hopeful. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Nazi Concentration camp survivor once said that we are all connected by pain. He watched his family murdered. Yet he meant that your pain and mine is not any different. It my be a divorce, a self-inflicted wound, the pain of a death or something else. Pain is like love, it’s an emotion. Pain is pain. In our humanity we are all connected. In our love and joy we can also connect. If we can find the strength to reach out, hug, touch or simply offer up a word of hope.
Merry Christmas to you.