Christmas Eve morning, she came through the breakfast serving line at our church. We’d doubled up on volunteers that morning, expecting more than our usual 100 hungry and/or homeless to come through the line, but I had my usual spot, serving the egg potato casserole and as official/unofficial greeter. When I looked up to welcome her and offer the entrée, our eyes met briefly, but her hands – nearly purple from the cold, cupped in front of her face so she could warm them with her breath – commanded my attention.
“God bless you,” she said, referring not only to the free, hot breakfast, but the heated dining room and church hall where she could be out of the cold for a bit.
“It’s freezing out there.”
“Oh I know,” I sympathized. And just as sympathetically, I asked, “Do you not have any gloves?”
“No,” she replied. “I got good deep pockets though.”
First lull in the serving line, I asked Amber if she would watch my spot for me. I keep a pair of cheap knit gloves in the pockets of every coat I own. But – and call this provident if you want – the day before, I’d bought a new pair of red gloves at a dollar store, just for me, my way of being festive. I’d worn the red ones that morning, but left the black pair in the pockets, so, technically, I had a pair and a spare.
One pair to wear.
And one pair to share.
I rolled the black gloves together into a ball and went to the dining room to find the lady without any.
Exactly 24 hours later, I was seated at a breakfast table in the restaurant of a luxury hotel overlooking the bay at Corpus Christi. My son had convinced me to order the Bananas Foster, something I couldn’t ever remember having and something that seemed fancier than I needed or deserved.
The contrast of giving away a gently-used cheap pair of gloves because I could and was able to; then in a day’s time find myself having to make a decision between several elegant menu items at a lovely restaurant in a fine hotel was sobering. Never mind the fact I’d had nothing stronger to drink than a cup of hot green tea with honey.
To clarify, my sister had called me a few weeks before telling me she and my brother-in-law wanted to give me a gift for Christmas. The stipulations were, it had to be something I wanted more than needed; something I wouldn’t turn around and give to someone else and do without.
That narrowed the choices down to almost zilch. I take pride in my ability to appreciate what I have and share when I can. I’m the most comfortable living simply. I’m sort of an old-lady Goldilocks. I don’t want things to be too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft, too big or too small. I want them to be just right. I’m happiest when I have “enough” – conflicted when there’s too much or not enough. Most days, I have enough. And most days I’m pretty happy.
But finally I admitted to my sister I’d thought of getting a hotel room in Corpus at Christmas. I hate to complain, but the bed in my son’s guest room is too soft and lumpy. I was thinking of a moderately priced room where the hotel had buffet breakfast available. You know, where I could make my own Texas-shaped waffle Christmas morning.
From that admittance, and my son’s recommendation to my sister, I found myself with a room on the 16th floor of the Omni Hotel. I enjoyed it all, the view, the perfectly firm mattress, the peace and quiet; the limited-time seemingly carefree existence I had away from life’s usual daily demands.
Truth is, the time starting with my encounter with the lady with near-frozen hands Christmas Eve and ending with my arrival back home the day after Christmas could be a metaphor for my 2017.
Extremes. Extreme extremes.
And so it may be in 2018. But I shall go forward hoping I can be as much of a blessing to some as some have been to me. Let us be kind and giving; accepting and forgiving; considerate, but careful.
We cannot fix the past or plan the future because all we have is the present. But in the evolving present, my plan is to seize the opportunities to give and enjoy those chances to receive.
Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.