“Man am I stuffed,” I said to myself as I drove home on Christmas Eve. I had just finished visiting family, and the food and drink could have fed a third world nation. Well, maybe a few families in a third world nation. Seafood, cold cuts, salads, cakes and pies, wine and beer; all so delicious and filling. Christmas music was playing in the home, and even a few brave, well, maybe drunk, souls sang along. If we had a karaoke machine, I’m sure as the evening progressed so would have the participation. And now, on my 30 minute drive home, I would have to be extra careful to abide by the traffic laws. Even though I hadn’t drank that much, and it was a couple hours now since my last one, I certainly didn’t need to get pulled over by some overzealous cop protecting his citizens from intoxicated drivers. And I wouldn’t want any cop perceiving my tiredness as drunkenness.
About 10 minutes into my drive I decided to stop at the next Wawa for a cup of coffee. And, there it was, just ahead of me. So I parked my car a bit away from the door hoping the walk in the cold air would help invigorate the blood flow in my system. As I opened my car door, I noticed a man, I’d say maybe in his 50’s, standing near a trash can. He saw me get out of the car, and he slowly moved toward me. “Oh no, not a beggar asking me for money,” I said to myself. So at first I pretended not to see him, and I was for sure not going to make eye contact. “Excuse me sir,” he said to me. What was I to do now? Pretend I was deaf as well as blind? “Hi,” I said. He looked safe enough, not as if he was intending to do me any harm. “Anyway you could buy me a cup of coffee?” he asked. Now, it was Christmas Eve, and I do not consider myself to be a Scrooge, so what was I to say? “OK. I’ll be right out. Oh, and do you want anything in it?” “No. I drink it black,” he said to me, and I proceeded into the store.
When I came outside, I at first did not see the man. Then I realized he was standing by my car. “Damn, buddy. I bought you a cup of coffee, now don’t expect anything else!” I walked up to the man and gave him his cup of coffee. “Thanks,” he said. “Can you do me a favor? I only live about 2 miles up the highway. Anyway you could give me a ride home? It’s been a long day and I don’t feel like hoofing it there.” Now what? I don’t make a habit of giving total strangers rides home. After all, my mother always told me not to ride with strangers. But, it was Christmas Eve, and the man looked desperate. And besides, what could happen? “OK. I can give you a ride. Hop in,” I said to the man. I unlocked the doors and in he jumped as I walked around to my door. “You don’t know how much I appreciate this,” the man said to me. “It’s cool. Not a problem at all,” I lied to him and myself. “Just tell me where to stop,” I told the man, then drove up the highway, as I watched the odometer for the 2 mile mark.
As I drove I couldn’t help but think that even though I work in a “helping” field, I do very little direct “helping” and now was my chance to do some of the “helping” I profess to do. So on I drove. Just before the 2 mile mark, the man said, “Here it is. This is the driveway back to my house. I live a little bit in the woods.” I was expecting the man to just have me drop him off at the end of his driveway, but I asked anyway, “Do you want me to drive in?” “If you don’t mind,” he said. Now what was I to say? I had just asked, out of stupidity or for whatever reason, if he wanted me to drive him to his house. How could I say, “No, I changed my mind. Walk down that long, dark driveway of yours and leave me alone!” And it was, after all, Christmas Eve. So I turned in. It was a dirt driveway, well actually a road, but fortunately, it was dry and hard gravel, not muddy or messy. And damn! What a long driveway it was. I would guess it was at least three quarters of a mile before I could make out a building of some kind. It was dark, except for the light of the moon, so I really couldn’t see if it was a house, a garage, or whatnot. “This is my humble abode,” the man said to me. I noticed several boxes on the porch to what I now could tell was a house. “Before you leave, anyway you can help me take those boxes inside?” the man asked me. Now what was I to say? After all, it was Christmas Eve. “Yes,” I said. “ I guess I can help you. But I really need to be going quickly. I am tired and need to get to bed early so I can be up early tomorrow morning.”
So I parked the car and turned off the engine. “Was that the right thing to do?” I thought to myself. “What if I need to make a quick getaway?” But the man seemed harmless enough, and by now, I felt pretty confident he was not some deranged killer or madman. He was just a man down on his luck that needed someone to help him, and maybe give him some human compassion. “We won’t be very long, I promise,” he said to me, as he exited my car.
I followed him up to his door. He opened the door, reached inside, and turned on a dim porch light. “There. That should help some,” he said to me as he reached for one of the boxes. I grabbed a smaller box and put in on top of a larger box, and proceeded to go into the house. As I stepped into the house, I felt a jolt of something! It felt like that feeling when you stick something into an electrical socket. And a bright light, one that I never experienced before, blinded me! “What the…” was all I could think. And then, a feeling of complete nothingness overtook my body. It was as if someone had drugged me with valium and my muscles just relaxed to the point of not being able to move, and not really caring that I couldn’t move. Then the light dimmed and I could see into the room.
There, in front of me, was the man, now dressed in a three-pieced suit, and behind him, a party of some kind. It looked like hundreds of people, nicely dressed, eating, drinking, laughing, and dancing having the time of their lives. “Karl,” the man said to me. “Because you had the decency to help me, you will experience what very few have. My friends, all who have already left this world, welcome you into theirs. Join the party.” No longer did I feel full from eating earlier. No longer was I tired. And I did, I did join the party. I ate, I drank, I laughed, I sang, for what seemed like hours. But I never felt tired. I never felt stuffed from all the food and wine. I was in a feeling of complete euphoria, complete satisfaction. And I noticed that my back, which was a little sore earlier in the day, didn’t hurt a bit now. What a party this was! I had never been to one so full of life, so full of excitement!
Finally, the man came to me and said, “It’s time to leave now. But you will be back, I assure you. One day, when it’s your time, you too shall join us for the party again. But then it will be a forever party; one that will never stop. If you keep on helping others as you did me, this is what awaits you. If you keep on fighting for rights of others, for equality and justice, this is what awaits you.” And the man led me to the door.
Once outside, all seemed as it had before I entered the house. I turned around to the house, and all I could see was the porch and the dimly lit light. I looked at my watch: 8:45PM. But it coudn't be. I must have been in that house for hours! I got into my car and drove home. Feeling so at ease and peaceful, I immediately went to bed and slept like a baby.
I never heard another thing until Christmas morning when I heard the neighbor kids playing with their new motorized cars on the walk outside my bedroom window. After getting up and showered, I just had to go back to the house where I dropped off the man. Going in the opposite direction, I looked and looked for the driveway that I drove the man down just last night. But I couldn’t find it. Then, I saw the Wawa where I met the man. I turned around in the store parking lot and watched my odometer to see when I had traveled two miles. Still no driveway. I pulled over, turned around, to again look. Still no driveway. I again headed back to the Wawa. I again kept my eye on the odometer and on the road, making certain I pulled over at the almost two mile mark. As I approached the two mile mark, I pulled the car over and slowly drove, looking at every inch of tree to find that driveway, but no driveway. I know I hadn't dreamt the whole thing. It was too real! Then, on one of the trees, I noticed something. It was a coffee cup nailed to the tree.
A Christmas miracle? After all it was Christmas Eve.