The kindness of strangers

A long time ago, I believe not long after my tenth birthday, there was a knock at my mom’s boyfriend’s front door. When he answered it two men in army fatigues stood outside in the darkness of the new evening holding a couple of bags worth of gifts. I didn’t know who they were, and I certainly had never seen them before in my neighborhood. At the time I thought they were friends of my mom’s boyfriend, just stopping by the place to drop off some gifts he and my mother had bought earlier. It wasn’t until I was older and thought about that night, I mean really thought about it from an adult perspective, that everything clicked for me. My mom’s boyfriend didn’t know who those men were. My mom certainly didn’t know who those men were. But they had come to my neighborhood, to my house, passing out gifts to us all the same before disappearing back into the night from where they had come. Looking back, I knew we weren’t that well off, but my mom and her boyfriend never let on that times were as tough as I later realized they were. I never went without the things that I truly needed, my mother saw to that. I had a meal on my plate, clothes on my back, warmth in the winter and cool in the summer. So I never really thought we had it all that bad. We weren’t well to do, not by a long shot, but I never thought we were really struggling. It’s not until I thought about that night, about those men in those fatigues, that I realized that we were poor. I mean really poor. So much so that the Salvation Army had come to our house to drop off presents for me and my family. 

It was literally years before I had realized what had happened, a testament to my mother and her boyfriend by never letting on that things were indeed much harder than I knew. I remember that Christmas as being one of the best of my young life. I remember the G.I. Joe Plane I had gotten that year was given to my mom’s boyfriend by one of the men in fatigues. For years I had viewed the people out in front of supermarkets or malls ringing their bells with a slight irritation, not because I had anything against them, but often wondered why did they even bother since no one seemed to care? But now I understand, more than anything I see with the full clarity that only hindsight is capable of giving someone, why those men and women do what they do every Holliday season. And I know that people do care. People whom I’ve never met and probably never will meet, donated their time and money, putting someone they would never meet ahead of themselves to insure that someone out there who didn’t have the things they did would have some semblance of Christmas.

Whenever I get apathetic or jaded regarding the world we live in, whenever I think the worst of people and lose faith in them, I think about that night, about those men at my mom’s boyfriend’s door. About the gifts they handed out from perfect strangers who cared enough to insure that a family like mine, who probably wouldn’t have much of a Christmas, would have something. I believe more than anything that idea of Christmas has been lost in the passing years. The whole goodwill towards men, peace on earth and all that, has taking a backseat to black friday, brown thursday and even cyber monday. But despite the madness and mayhem that erupts from these days each year and caught on someone’s cellphone video camera and posted on youtube, I know that there are some out there that understand what Christmas was and still is at its heart. There are some who understand the power that the kindness of strangers posses. 

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