Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Christmas Story

I met Fred in the Downtown Eastside when he was a frequent visitor to the shelter where I worked. He lived in a nearby hotel but liked to hang out in the evenings when we opened the doors to the neighbourhood. That was twenty years ago.

We are sitting on plastic totes around an ancient heat panel “blaster” in the back of an open underground parking lot. My knees burn while my back freezes.This is where he sleeps. It’s Christmas Eve.

I ask him if he remembers one of our first encounters at the shelter, the time he stood beside me against a well-known bully. He was such an asshole, I say, a total jerk. He was picking on a woman with mental challenges and I had told him to leave the shelter. 

Yeah, says Fred, I remember. He takes a long draw on his beer.

You got beat up, too, for defending me—he ambushed you outside the building.  

Ahh, it wasn’t so bad. Are you sure you don’t want some beer? 

He was such a jerk, I repeat.

You know, says Fred, he wasn’t so bad. Yeah, he had a mean mouth and I couldn’t tolerate that but …

Nothing good about him, I reiterate.

You know, he says again, he was just a kid. A kid trying to survive a bad history. You got to look for the good things. Look at me. I am sitting here on a plastic crate in a cold parking lot with no home to go to. He pauses. And I have a beautiful woman sitting across from me. There’s a good side to everything.

Happy Christmas. May we all look for goodness; may we all be so generous.

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