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The Gifts of Food and Hope this Christmas
As returned to my vehicle, after leaving a store, where I spent more money than I should on gifts that my kids really don't "need" I saw a beat up older model car parked next to mine with an older man standing next to it. He had the driver's door wide open and he was just standing there. I intended to load all of my packages into the passenger side of my car. As I got closer I was waiting for him close his door and go about his business. He wasn't moving along and joining the hustle and bustle of all the other shoppers. He wasn't leaving his car.
Our cars were parked so close in the lot I was forced to go around the back of my vehicle to get into the rear passenger door. He remained standing at his drivers door, with it wide open. Although we were just inches from each other he didn't look my way. I was able to see right into his car which was loaded with possessions not Christmas gifts. They were not in bags like all of the other shoppers, they were folded piles of clothing, and some boxes. They covered the entire rear seat and the front passenger seat. I knew immediately that he was living in his car, and I felt a pit in my stomach. I couldn't fathom a man well into his sixties sleeping in his car. Moreover, I couldn't imagine having to pack his whole life into his vehicle.
In that moment I was overcome with a feeling of sadness for this man, but yet I didn't know what I could offer him. He wouldn't even glance in my direction. Moreover I felt embarrassed knowing what was in my packages and that he was in one of the worst situations a person could find himself in. I pulled out of my parking spot and began to drive away so impacted but also helpless.
I returned home later and quickly wrapped some gifts to put under the tree and turned on some Christmas music. Eventually I was able to put the stranger out of my mind and focus on filling my own house with Christmas cheer.
Within an hour my kids got off the bus and ran through the door. They immediately noticed the gifts under the tree and were dying to know if any of the tags and their names. They knew the rule..."Do not touch til' Christmas!" They sat as close as they could stretching their necks to try to read the tags. They were chatting about the things they wished for and what fun things we would do when the family gathered on Christmas Day. Before I knew it I was agreeing to bake cookies after dinner that night. The excitement of kids right before Christmas is infectious.
As I watched them I was thankful knowing they would have a wonderful holiday filled with great memories. I was unable to forget the stranger, and couldn't help but think how different life was for him at this time. I wanted to share the story of the stranger to teach my children that there are people HERE in our community who are less fortunate and really do need help. We decided to do our part and donate some items to local charities that help local people. Some of them are listed below, it isn't too late to help other this Christmas season.
Ocean Community Church 1492 Route 72 West
Needs all non perishables/baby items/small furniture
Long Beach Township
Saint Francis Community Center - 4700 LBB
Needs perishables and non perishables
Tuckerton Area Interchurch Food Pantry
319 West Calabreeze Way, Little Egg Harbor
Needs all food
Ocean County Hunger Relief
917-5 North Main Street, Toms River NJ
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