Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Gift / Part 5 of George's story

**About ten years ago I published this story in our church newsletter. I had lots of feedback about it, so I thought I would include it here as the next segment in my husband’s story. This is one of many true events that happened while he was lost.

The boy sat quietly on the pavement. Christmas lights twinkled in the trees around him. It was that time of year again. He could smell the churros being fried, sugar-dipped and heavenly tasting. Tamales were being steamed, cozy in their nests of moistened corn husks. The sights and sounds were all around him, but this year they meant nothing. He was lost.

Two months before, his family had moved to a new town. His brother and him had been walking to school. He was only six and school didn’t sound that appealing to him. He had wandered off; ready to explore the new town they lived in.

At the train station, the train cars had looked so fascinating. Before he knew what had happened, the train had taken off – with him in it. Now he was in this town, this town where he knew no one. In the time that he’d been here, he had wandered the streets not knowing where to go. He couldn’t go to the police; he was afraid they put him in jail. They would think he’d run away; that he was a bad boy. Sometimes, he would stand on the street corner and cry.

One time someone had given him money when he was crying. So now, for money, he would do this every night on a different street corner. No one gave him a second thought. He would take a small portion of this money and go to the church. There, he would put this money in the alms container that was located in the foyer of the church. He would pray, “God, I will always give you this money if you just let me find my way home.”

As the Christmas season approached, he felt sure that Santa would come and bring him gifts, then take him home. The streets were filled with activities, people rushing and laughing. The 12 days of posadas were beginning. These were parties that were held in the days leading up to Christmas. They sang to the baby Jesus, and passed out warm drinks. The boy went to these parties, just wanting to be part of something and perhaps get something to eat. He stuffed his pockets with oranges and whatever else fell out of the piñatas. A lot of the time, they shooed him away, for he was dirty and disheveled. He walked back to the outside market where he stayed. He could see happy faces inside the windows of houses. Glimpses of gifts and food tantalized him.  With a hope still in his chest, he crawled under the table in the market and pulled the newspapers over him for warmth. Surely Santa wouldn’t forget him…

But Santa did forget him. For three years the boy lived on the streets. Sometimes people would take him in for a few days, but he would always run away. They only wanted him to work in their houses. Though he had grown used to life on the streets alone, at 9 years old, he was still a boy. He dreamed of going home, but it was getting hard to picture his mama’s face. It had slowly faded into the past.

His third Christmas away was fast approaching. Sitting on the same slab of pavement, he looked up at the twinkling lights. My family has forgotten me, he thought.

The next day he met a man who wanted to take him in to live with his family for a while. He never said no; always went because he knew for a few days he would have food and be warm. When they arrived at the house, the man told him he would have to sleep in the shed behind the house. He had four other children and there was no room in the house. The family also had a few farm animals, so they also stayed in the small shed. The boy knew it was better than sleeping under a table outside, so he decided to stay until Christmas was over. This family was nicer than most. He had to do chores, but at least he had food. On Christmas Eve as he lay down to sleep, the hope he had always had in him slowly died. He would never be with a family who loved him like his own. No one would ever wrap their arms around him with the same love and comfort as his mama had. He fell asleep with tears glistening on his face.

The next morning he woke up; it was Christmas morning. The animals snorted in their stalls, and the boy lay and didn’t want to move. He was warm and just wanted to wrap himself in a cocoon and never get up. He glanced over and there lying beside was a gift. A gift? A Christmas gift? It was a small package, and trembling, he picked it up. Sure enough, there was his name on it. He carefully opened the package, and inside lay a brand new blue t-shirt. A simple blue shirt. Tears started down his cheeks. Nobody had gotten him anything in three years. He slipped off his dirty and matted old shirt and put on the new one. Pleasure was bursting through his whole heart. Someone had thought about him. Someone had cared. He felt a tiny part of his hardened heart soften.

Maybe he would find his way home, and maybe his mom was still looking for him.  He had to hope, because without hope what is there? He stepped out of his shed and looked at the Christmas morning. He thanked God for not forgetting about him.