Over the past few years I have been finding it progressively harder and harder to find the Christmas spirit within myself.
I'm not sure why. I have a wonderful life; unlike the movie of the same name I have no bank examiners chasing me and I have a great family, plenty to eat and a semi-warm house to live in.
I should be thankful for all I have, but sometimes it is hard to see out of the forest for the brambles that we ourselves have grown up around us.
So that's the way it's been, each year searching for the spirit, but only finding, instead, expensive gifts under the tree and the bills that follow the season.
However, on Friday, I did find the Christmas spirit, and it was hiding on a street near the Rio Grande train station in Salt Lake. What Christmas means to each of us varies. For me Christmas, before my days of blue ones, always had to do with the people that were around me; seeing those you hadn't seen for awhile, having a drink or two with old friends and some travel to enjoy the company of family. Personally if they took the gifting out of Christmas, I would never have lost much after I was 15. It has always been the celebration of life that I liked the best, not the stuff. But somehow in the last few years, I had forgotten even that. On Friday I had lunch in the old train station with a friend I hadn't seen in almost 30 years. It was a good homecoming, despite the fact that I had been closer to his sister than I had to him. After she passed away in 1975, he and I had never even conversed until about two weeks ago and it is then that we decided to get together. When the two of us walked out of the restaurant, I felt happy and renewed; we had talked about our lives, the directions they had taken and of course about a woman we had both cared about a great deal. He then went his way and I went mine, with a big smile on my face.
As I pulled out onto the street and headed north I realized I was right in the middle of the block where the homeless in Salt Lake get meals and look for help. Here the street is lined with people that have scruffy beards, torn and dirty clothes, while they haul around rag bags carrying all that they own within them. Ironically, at the end of the block where one can view this spectacle of human misery, stands the south entrance to the Gateway shopping plaza. It, by contrast, could be seen full of holiday shoppers carrying big bags of presents while they sniffed air scented by expensive restaurants cooking all kinds of feeding fare. As I maneuvered my car along this street it was as if I was in a third world country, bordered by a very rich nation. I pulled up to the stop sign to wait for traffic so I could head downtown to pick up my wife who was shopping while I met my friend for lunch. I had my window down because it was such a nice day. Two, obviously homeless men, were crossing at the intersection coming directly toward my car. My first inclination was that they would be asking for money and that I should roll up my window as quickly as possible.
"Merry Christmas, sir," said one, a long haired blonde man that I judged to be about 35 as he walked near the car. I was so shocked that I was sure this was some kind of ploy.
"It's a beautiful day, isn't it," said the other, a sixtyish man with a torn coat, as he looked into the sky. "You have a great holiday."
I would like to have been them just to see the look on my face as they passed through the crosswalk in front of my car. I then drove away with my jaw locked in the open position, trying to figure out what had just happened.
As it turned out it was a good day and a surprising day; one in which I found the spirit for the whole season in a most unlikely place.