“Almost no one — outside of the infamous one percent — is honestly out of the realm of the possibility that one day they could become homeless.”
– Bruce McTague, Enlightened Conflict
LOS ANGELES — As I spend Christmas with my wife, our youngest daughter and her family in a suburb of this, the nation’s second largest city, I have been thinking about those across America who are dramatically less fortunate this holiday season. Tonight, as we enjoy a wonderful meal and great fellowship in their lovely home, there will be people who die on the streets because they have no home, no hope.
This is not exactly a topic any of us want to think about at Christmas. But we should. What better time?
This year, like 2009, has been a challenging year for many small businesses across the country. The uncertainty of a tumultuous political campaign and an economic recovery that failed to raise all boats, created a great deal of stress across the middle class but as the year winds down, we should pause and remember that most of us have much to be thankful for.
There will always be experiential signposts that serve as reminders that while most of us routinely overcome adversity, there are many who do not.
This Christmas we should rejoice in the spirit of the holiday, acknowledge our many blessings and never forget those whose lives are now centered on the streets.
As I was reviewing some past blogs for a book on career management, I ran across this post, originally published on Dec. 24, 2009. At the time I was winding down my involvement with a company that I had started 16 years earlier. I was in New Orleans to call on a potential client. This post captured a moment that changed the way I looked at my own life and led me to believe that I could successfully start over.
NEW ORLEANS – Another airport, another rental car and another hotel. This is my last business trip of a year that has been filled with some of the most daunting business challenges I have faced in my 30 years in healthcare.
As I drove to the airport in the chilly predawn hours, I made a wrong turn down a small side street in a not so very good part of the town. In the glare of my headlights, as I made a hasty u-turn, I saw a man sitting on the curb. He was holding a little girl. Wrapped in a worn, dirty blanket, they looked like so many street people you see in Dallas or most other cities in America. But this wasn’t just another homeless man. There was a little girl. That shocked me.
I must confess, until that moment on that dingy dark street, my holiday spirits were less than merry this Christmas season. The financial squeeze, brought on by the Great Recession, has affected us all. For the first time in my life I was actually dreading Christmas.
But here I was at 5:30 AM, on the streets of New Orleans. And there was a homeless man and a homeless child. Suddenly my concerns, my problems, seemed pretty trivial.
I had not slept well. Weather forecasts of strong thunderstorms brought warnings of flight delays or cancellations. Most flights were booked with long wait lists for standby passengers. If one of my flights was cancelled, or I missed a connection, getting home would have become an enormous challenge. I like New Orleans, but this is NOT where I want to spend Christmas, alone in a hotel.
Taking counsel of my fears, I tossed and turned most of the night. I finally gave up on sleep and got up at 4 AM. This is all to say that if I had not left for the airport so early, if I had not made that wrong turn, I would not have seen that man and little girl. I would have returned to Dallas, locked in my own world with concerns and challenges that paled by comparison to a homeless man trying to take care of a little girl on the mean streets.
Christmas is a time for family, for reflection and renewal. On this Christmas Eve, I am in Dallas with my wife. For the first time in long time, we are not with our extended family. The weather is cold and it has begun to snow. I still have the pressing concerns of business but now I have the image of that little girl and the man, huddled on a dark and lonely New Orleans street.
I am so lucky, so blessed.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays.
© 2020 John Gregory Self