Saturday, December 16, 2017


Have you ever learned that the gift you ordered for someone duplicates the gift someone else had purchased for the same family member?

Well, meet Hugh, an old teacher who does Tai Chi for fifteen minutes and exercise walks for thirty minutes every day. 

This past week Hugh realized, since this mail-order Christmas gift duplicates what someone else in the family has ordered, we'd have to return it. Never done that before. How to do it?
He explored the vendor’s website and found instructions on how to return a purchase. Just box it up, print out the return-purchase form, paste it on the box top and deliver the box to a certain address downtown. Easy, Hugh thought.

He drove to the vendor’s downtown store from his home in a suburb. An immediate problem: no place to park on the street. He steered his old Camry into the unsightly parking lot of a dismal-looking convenience store. Then he walked a half-block to the vendor’s store on the other side of the street.

What did he see in those three hundred feet? A man lying motionless on the sidewalk, apparently asleep, just as anyone else would do in pajamas in a warm bed. But this man lay there, his left cheek resting on the cold concrete, no pillow of any sort, dressed in a heavy coat.


By The Photographer [CC BY-SA 4.0 
Via Wikimedia Commons

The old teacher avoided the sidewalk sleeper and scooted into the vendor’s store. The bright, shiny“store” was devoid of merchandise, of people and of any sign of instruction. To the left he saw six pull down doors about two feet high and three feet wide. What are they for? he wondered. He saw a counter at the rear of the room, so he waited there for a clerk. In a few minutes an employee appeared. He explained that Hugh could stand before one of the six small pull-down doors on the wall, scan the return-purchase form, and then place the box in a door. The purchase price would be returned to his account automatically. 

Hugh marveled: so fast, so simple, so high-tech, so much in contrast to the street scene he’d just walked through.

Exiting, he noticed a woman to her right, dressed in a warm coat, sitting maybe thirty feet to his right on the cold concrete sidewalk. He paused to watch as a second woman, older, a hand on a shopping cart filled with bags of groceries. From the convenience store? The shopper seemed to be offering the street person something, possibly a roll. The two exchanged glances and some words. The street person reached out a hand and accepted the gift.

Hugh turned left to retrace his steps to his Camry. Things had changed here: he saw an older man, fully awake, sitting on the sidewalk by the street-sleeper’s side. The newcomer seemed to be giving the sleeper protection from any disturbance. Quite a gift.   

Back in his Camry he turned on the heater and gratefully drove away from the downtown.

Hugh had a saving thought. He remembered the centuries-old story. A young woman in labor was turned away from shelter in the inn. She endured her travail in a cold barn. A huge lot of good had come from that cold birth episode. The woman just now seen giving another a piece of bread, and the man protecting the sleeper—perhaps they like the angels of the first Christmas. That gave Hugh some hope.

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