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Let others come into focus this Christmas

I know a little boy who lives inside a man. He was, and is, the best husband and dad, never letting his past define him. He chose joy when he felt bitter. But when Christmas rolls around, I sense in him a tiny pinprick of sadness, a replaying of lived-through scenes that crash through his head. The twinkly lights on the tree and festivities give him pause and bring back cold nights spent sleeping on a concrete sidewalk. For Christmas I give you a piece of that story to gently prod and remind you that there still exists the least of us, and we are to love them.

The center of Oaxaca sparkled, brushing away the filthy corners and wrapping them in a soft glow. The little boy sat on the curb, watching the vendors set up their wares for the Christmas market. The air was drenched with the smells of churros frying in fat and chocolate atoles that bubbled in their metal vats. He could taste them sliding slowly down into his belly. His small shoulders shivered, bare in the cool December air.

He didnít know where he was. The train had taken and deposited him months before in this place, away from his family and home, away from the bone-crunching fist of his stepfather. He was lost to them and himself, sleeping on the concrete sidewalk under a table. He covered himself with used newspapers for small warmth. He moved like a wraith around the city, pilfering food off fancy restaurant patronís plates and pretending to cry on a street corner for money.

But in the days leading up to Christmas, the city came alive, and his heart ó tender and wary ó grew tired. His feet took him walking on side streets where extended families smiled at each other inside houses and ate food together at tables. Elaborate manger scenes were erected, tiny twinkling lights and Christmas balls adorned merrily.

Posadas, fiestas of the re-enactment of Mary and Josephís search for lodging in Bethlehem, were beginning. Each evening he encountered these traditional fiestas and could smell the mounds of homemade tamales and steaming pots filled with ponche: a hot simmering drink loaded with fruit. He saw the happiness in the crowd and joined the celebration, confidently walking into a posada already in progress. The baby Jesus was wrapped in a cloth, and as one, the crowd of neighbors knocked on each otherís door, asking if there was room to stay. He sang the songs as they searched for a place for the baby to lay his head, and when they found his manger ó ready at a predetermined home ó and lay him there, the fiesta began.

He hadnít seen his face, dirty, hair disheveled and in need of a comb. He had simply wanted to sing to the baby Jesus, be a part of people who loved each other. Iím sure Mary and Joseph had been as dirty as the little boy was, turned away time and time again. But his eyes shone as he picked up a tamale from the steaming pan and a cup of hot drink, his lips hovering over the edge of the cup. From behind he could feel an arm on his shoulder.

ďWhat are you doing here?Ē a voice harshly said to him.

He turned around and could see the disgust in her eyes, the owner of the home where the neighbors gathered. ďWe canít have you here. People donít want you here,Ē she said.

She gathered up several tamales and pushed them into his hand, leading him to the gate. He could feel all eyes on him as the piŮata was being strung up for the kids to break open, his heart breaking open as well. He turned around and threw the tamales at her, hot drink spilling down his arm. And he ran into the night, knowing that he wasnít wanted there. And Christmas passed.

It would be three more Christmases until he was found. Itís a reminder that not all Christmases are perfect, that we are commanded to love the downtrodden, the lost and the ones who donít look like us. Letís unzip from chasing Christmas perfection, and let others come into focus; those we donít allow ourselves to see.

Published: December 19, 2016
New Article ID: 2016712199982