I can remember when I was five, sitting in my father's Chevy waiting for him to come out from the pizza parlor. A storm was beginning to stretch across the sky and I wanted to go home where I'd be safe. Just then I heard a loud, crashing sound which I thought was thunder. Fear seized me. I turned to look for my daddy when I noticed a frail, old man.
This man, soiled from head to toe, was bending over a rusty trash can he had accidentally knocked over. His clothes were ripped and he had no shoes on his feet. He held a torn Styrofoam cup in one hand, which he was using to collect what later would be his dinner. As I observed him, my fears melted and I began to relax. Comfortable with my thoughts, I began to examine him more closely and noticed his long, partially white, beard.
Finally I shouted, "It's Santa Claus!" The old man stepped forward, startled and gazed softly into my eyes. They were a clear-bluish color swelling with tears, happy ones, I admired. He shed a tender smile from his chapped lips and then was on his way.
Where did he go? I wanted to run after him to give him everything I enjoyed: a home, a family, and love. Santa had always brought me everything I wanted each year, yet I could give him nothing. I just sat there stunned. I felt so helpless.
When my father returned, I wanted to tell him what had happened, but I didn't. We just rode home in a strange silence.
When we arrived, I ran to my room, looked out the window and prayed. For a while I just sat there gazing, reflecting on what I had experienced. I thought of Santa Claus and what the Bible said: "Happy are the poor, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs." That made me happy because someday this old man's sufferings would be rewarded.
I was home, but where was this frail, old man? Where would Santa spend the night? Unfortunately, I will never know. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.