THE MILLIONTH TIME

By Dan Gibbons

T’was the season, it was Christmas, the generous time,

And in late afternoon at the soup kitchen I tried to form a line.

We had gathered groceries and presents, “Our consciences to heal?”

And trying to “Live the Word,” we served a healthful free meal

 

Outside, at times, the burly, the bullies pushed to the front,

Causing the older, the weaker, to pause in the hunt.

It was cold, I was harried, asking “please stay in line,”

When I saw her waiting, quiet and frightened, behind.

 

She was tiny and eighty, frail in a simple black coat

But in bearing and courage, she was St. Joan crossing a moat.

All her family gone before her, she seemed not of our time.

Yet she girded to the battle and joined the ragged line.

 

We gave bags full of food and presents from Santa,

To the many there waiting in the Winter winds mantra.

Just climb the few steps now and a place she would win,

Then four youths slipped past her and they were the last ones in!

 

She raised a grizzled hand meekly, her spirit crushed to the core,

Yet only breeding and character addressed that closed door.

Silent and alone on the street in the gathering gloom

She crossed herself reverently and started back to her room.

 

Pushed back by the rush I screamed in silence with rage,

At insolent youths versus this tiny four-scored sage

From my place in the inside I cursed at the sky,

Now very angry, I asked Him again and again “Why?”

 

In a while, I saw her hunched, moving arthritically away,

Into the gray of the sidewalks, and buildings and day.

And then I saw them, four street toughs overtaking her fast,

Their arms full of presents and food as they cruised past.

 

Then the last youth stopped and I held my breath,

Suddenly praying and frightened nearly to death.

The youth raised his arms and fast raced my heart,

As he carefully lowered his groceries, his presents, into her cart.

 

In a flash he was gone, down the street, now bight in the gloom,

Her faith in man/God renewed, she danced back to her room.

The miracle of Christmas, round the youth and woman grew bright,

And I “learned” for the millionth time, “judge not at first sight.”

To a grand old woman a courageous young man.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #18 Cleveland,Ohio