A Christmastime Story

Unless you happen to be privileged enough to live very far north or very far south, Christmastime isn’t exactly a snowy time of year.  While the air still holds a feeling of Christmas, the majority of us hear the rhythm of rain more than the crunch of snow when it’s Christmastime in the city. And that’s what it was like in downtown Dallas, the week before Christmas, when a friend and I had a few hours to take pictures in the city before flying out for the Christmas holidays in more northerly climates.

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Thankfully, since we were both prepared with rain jackets and winter coats, our shoot was actually quite enjoyable. There were plenty of subjects to photograph . . . skyscrapers, bridges, pigeons, city fountains . . . imagine that, photographing actual flowing water in December! And there was always the warm car to go to to afterwards, and the thought of hot coco with friends and family at home soon.

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Rainy Day In The City
Downtown Dallas, Texas
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But what if you are not prepared for cold weather? What if there was no warm car or hot coco to go to at the end of a cold, rainy day?

Even in a southern city like Dallas, the cold would still make it miserable to be homeless, stuck living under a bridge someplace. As I generally don’t frequent inner cities much, the thought of being homeless doesn’t frequent my mind that often. But after what happened on my way home from Dallas this Christmas, the reality of homelessness has caused me to think twice about the Christian’s response to those in need of basic needs…

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Though the early afternoon flight out of Dallas was significantly delayed, it didn’t matter much that I landed in Pittsburgh a few hours late. My bus home to Clarksburg wasn’t leaving the Pittsburgh airport until 9pm anyway.

Everything went just as planned. When I hopped on the bus to begin the 3 hour ride home, there were just three of us passengers. One left relatively early on, so that left the two of us alone for the majority of the ride home. We didn’t talk much. We were both tired. He slept most of the way and I watched photography tutorials most of the way.

When we arrived in Clarksburg after midnight, I piled up my luggage by the bus stop where my brother Donald promised he would come and pick me up. Boy was I looking forward to being home again! It was so Christmastime now. Expectancy overcame my tiredness now, and, almost jestingly, I concluded my friendly farewell to my fellow passenger as he headed off into the drizzly night with a lighthearted “See ya! Hope  you don’t have too far to walk!”

To my surprise, he stopped, turned around and with a smile said, “Yeah, only 45 miles.”

I laughed, thinking he was jesting as well. But he wasn’t kidding. “Seriously?” I asked.

“Yeah, seriously.” But he smiled again. “My ride didn’t work out, but I promised my fiancée I’d come, so I figured I’d just start walking.”

Now that’s dedication, I thought! Thankfully it wasn’t cold that night, but still! 45 miles?

“Uh, so what direction are you headed?” I asked. “My brother will be arriving soon, perhaps we could take you half way?”

Turns out we took Jonathan the whole way that night. What else could you do?! The town he was headed to was just beyond our town anyway, so 20 miles extra there and back really wasn’t that big of a deal. Plus, it made me extra grateful for my bed that night when I finally reached it at 2am that morning.

But that’s only the first part of the story.

The next day, Sunday, I get a text from Jonathan right at about dark. It was pretty simple: “Hey, can you call me whenever you get the chance? So, I’m homeless.”

From our conversations the night before, it was clear that Jonathan wasn’t in the best of circumstances. Beyond the regular challenges of life, his luggage had been lost on the bus the day before, he evidently didn’t have much cash on hand, and now today, due to an unfortunate set of circumstances at his fiancée’s house, he was without a place to sleep that night. And it wasn’t exactly warm, with temperatures hovering around freezing now.

What would you do?

Just saying, I don’t find myself in this situation very often. But sometimes God likes to bring along special situations to help us get out of our comfort zone, be a light to the world and a blessing to those who are in need around us. On the one hand, I wanted to help those who God had uniquely brought into my life. But on the other hand, I didn’t want to get in the way of what God may have been doing in Jonathan’s life. God uses hard times to draw people back to himself. So what do I do? I asked God about it. I wanted to find out how God wanted the story to end.

It wasn’t long after that an idea came to mind. It’s Sunday night! Why not get Jonathan hooked up with a church nearby?

It took a few hours and lots of phone calls, but by 11pm that night the body of Christ had pulled together to get Jonathan a room at a local hotel and a hot breakfast the next morning. As far as I know, that’s all he needed to get back on his feet again.

I may never know the end of the story. But there is one thing that I do know…God knows what we don’t know, and orchestrates life accordingly in ways that will bring him the most glory. May God continue to use the cold, rainy days of Christmastime to bring each one of us closer to himself.

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5 Comments

  1. ANA January 6, 2017 at 9:09 am #

    JAMES: LE PREGUNTO: ¿NO HUBIERA SIDO MEJOR LLEVAR A ESTE JOVEN, MUERTO DE FRIO, HAMBRIENTO Y SIN UN LUGAR DONDE HOSPEDARSE, TAL VEZ SIN DINERO, A PASAR ESA NOCHE JUNTO CON USTEDES EN EL HOGAR STADDON? POR LO QUE LEO NO QUEDABA LEJOS VERDAD? Y APROVECHAR DE ESA MANERA, PARA HABLARLE DE LA SALVACION A TRAVES DE JESUCRISTO, Y ASI GANAR UNA NUEVA ALMA PARA EL SEÑOR. CREO QUE NO FUE MUY CRISTIANO DE SU PARTE NO LLEVARLO CON USTEDES, ¿TENIA MIEDO A UN DESCONOCIDO? ¿NO CONFIA USTED EN EL SEÑOR? ¿NO SABE ACASO QUE TAL VEZ USTED PODRIA HABER HOSPEDADO A UN ANGEL, COMO DICE LA ESCRITURA? AH ME OLVIDABA ALGO MUY IMPORTANTE: LA NAVIDAD ES UNA FIESTA PAGANA, LLENA DE IDOLATRIA, NO ES BIBLICA. TRATE DE TRADUCIR MI MENSAJE EN SU IDIOMA, QUIERO QUE ME RESPONDA.

  2. Claire January 9, 2017 at 5:34 am #

    Ana – publicas en español después de cada post aquí. Ellos nunca responden a ti. ¿Por qué no intentar escribir en inglés. Y deja de vociferar.

  3. James January 9, 2017 at 7:28 pm #

    Those are some great suggestions, Claire. I wouldn’t doubt it is difficult for you all to write in English, but perhaps it would be good practice. 🙂 It is ok that you write in Spanish, though, because I can always use Google Translate. But it’s good practice for me, too, to guess what you guys are trying to say beforehand!

    You are right, Ana! It would certainly be a commended ministry to take those who were in need into our home. The home is an excellent place to display hospitality. And bringing Jonathan to our home was indeed an option we considered. But it was not the right thing for us to do in this situation at this time. We were grateful for the opportunity we had to share the good news of salvation in Christ the night before, and were glad that the church who took care of him in the town he was staying the next night also shared Christ’s love with him in whatever interactions they were able to have. I am grateful for the body of Christ working together, each fulfilling it’s part. “You in your small corner, and I in mine”, as the song goes!

    I have heard about many pagan customs surrounding the winter solstice, and hope that you will continue to be a light of truth to those in your culture regarding these things.

  4. Claire January 9, 2017 at 9:58 pm #

    That is a lovely reply, James, thank you.

    Ana – please speak whatever language you like. I just thought you’d have more success in English. God bless you.

  5. ANA January 10, 2017 at 9:03 am #

    JAMES: CUANDO TU PUBLICAS LO HACES EN INGLES, ENTONCES USO EL TRADUCTOR Y PUEDO LEER PERFECTAMENTE LO QUE PUBLICAS, TU PUEDES HACER LO MISMO SINO CONOCES EL ESPAÑOL, ES FACIL. EN CUANTO A MI CULTURA COMO TU DICES, YO LEO LA BIBLIA Y SE PERFECTAMENTE LO QUE ESTA ESCRITO Y LA NAVIDAD Y EL FESTEJO DEL CUMPLEAÑOS O FECHA DE NACIMIENTO DE JESUS NO ES BIBLICA, NO ESTA ESCRITA EN LA BIBLIA. CREO EN DIOS PADRE, CREADOR DEL CIELO Y LA TIERRA Y TODO LO QUE HABITA EN ELLA, CREO EN SU HIJO JESUCRISTO, QUE VINO AL MUNDO PARA MORIR POR MI, POR TI Y TAMBIEN POR CLAIRE AUNQUE NO LA CONOZCO Y NI SABE QUIEN SOY, POR TODOS MURIO Y NOS DIO VIDA ETERNA Y PERDON DE LOS PECADOS Y CREO EN EL SANTO ESPIRITU DE DIOS. NO ME VENGA CON IDIOTECES DEL SOLSTICIO DE INVIERNO, QUE NADA TIENE QUE VER CON JESUS, ¿USTED EN QUE CREE? ¿PERTENECE A ALGUNA RELIGION? ¿ALGUNA SECTA? A VECES NO ENTIENDO SU POSTURA, SIGO INSISTIENDO EN QUE DEBIO HOSPEDAR AL JOVEN. EN CUANTO A TI CLAIRE, QUE NO SE QUIEN ERES, MIDE TUS PALABRAS,¿TU PERTENECES ALGUNA SECTA MODERNA QUE DISFRAZAN LA PALABRA DE DIOS? ¿EN QUE CREES TU, PARECE QUE NO ERES BUENA CRISTIANA CUANDO USAS TERMINOS VULGARES REFIRIENDOTE A UNA PERSONA QUE NO CONOCES. TRADUCE LO QUE ESCRIBO, ME INTERESAN SUS COMENTARIOS, PERO NUNCA VOY A ESTAR DE ACUERDO CON USTEDES EN CUANTO AL PAGANISMO Y LA IDOLATRIA, QUE ENVUELVE EL NACIMIENTO DE NUESTRO SEÑOR Y SALVADOR JESUCRISTO. ¿NO SON TEMEROSOS DE DIOS? USEN EL TRADUCTOR. GRACIAS.

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