Monday, March 23, 2009

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

The first thing I did when I went to Denver the weekend before last was to drive to my sister's office to have lunch with her. She works on the west side of the metropolitan Denver area, out where the 6th Avenue Freeway dumps into Colfax Avenue. On my way back to the east side of the city I somehow missed the South I-25 turn off and ended up on northbound I-25. That side of the highway was bumper to bumper so I stayed in the merge/exit lane and got off nine blocks later at the Colfax Avenue bridge exit. I was planning to circle around and take the Southbound I-25 exit from Colfax back down to the highway. Right before Colfax and on the ramp sat an old man who looked like a derelict Santa with white hair and full beard. He was holding a two foot wide square of cardboard on which he had written words explaining that he was too old to work, homeless, and asking for money.

Now I do not usually hand out money to the people I see begging on the side of the road. There is one man who stands at the top of the off ramp from I-25 to Colorado Boulevard who I always ignore because I get the feeling that he really doesn't need the money. He carries a sign that says he will work for food but when I offered to swing around and bring back a meal from one of the fast food restaurants that line Colorado he turned me down. But Santa, I had the feeling that what he had written was the truth so I stopped and fumbled for some bills in my wallet and pulled out three. I rolled down the window and said, "Mister? Mister?"

He jumped up and rushed over and I thrust the bills into his hand. I am not sure if I gave him three dollars or twelve dollars but he thanked me profusely. The light was green at the top of the ramp and there was a car waiting behind me so I raced off only to have the light turn red before I got to it. I stopped and looked in my side view mirror where I could see the old man sitting back down. Something about him touched me and I felt like crying. Was it because I could see the dignity in him or was it because I felt the connection between us as fellow human beings? I knew I had to speak to him one more time and I rolled down my window again and stuck my head out, "Mister? Mister?"

He turned to look at me. "God bless you, mister," I said.

A smile as wide as sunshine lighted his face and he said with great feeling, "God bless you, too."

Tears streamed down my face as I rolled up the window.

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