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Listening can have an impact

Many years ago, on Christmas Eve, I was working in a small restaurant, close to the Army Base in Calgary. Every year, the owner put on a special turkey with all the trimmings, pumpkin pie, coffee or tea. It was for the soldiers, usually, who couldn't make it home for the holidays. The tab? \$1.50. (I said it was many years ago!) An old man shuffled in, his clothes tattered and very dirty, his long, gray hair matted and straggly, dirt literally clinging to his skin. My, he was bitterly cold! Putting an arm around his shoulders, I led him to the old, but effective radiator on the wall, sat him at a table, and ran to get him a coffee, holding it while he drank. He asked me for the Christmas special, and the owner bless his heart made sure extra food was put on his plate. Soon, warmed through, belly full, but so terribly sad, he asked me what I had planned for Christmas. Hearing, with tears in his eyes, that my two sons and I were to spend it with my mom, he started to talk. And I listened. Years before, he, his wife, and two sons, had spent Christmas Eve with a relative. On the way home, their car skidded on the ice, slamming into another car. His wife and sons were killed instantly. Subsequently, he turned to the bottle, soon lost everything, and ended up homeless. He talked for more than two hours and I listened. Then he arose, and walked toward the counter, hands in pockets, looking for money to pay his bill. Somehow, I knew those pockets had nothing but holes, so I put my hand on his and said: "That's okay. Merry Christmas!" he looked at me and smiled, then turned to leave. "Good night sir", I said, and in that split second, I was sure his chest swelled, and he got a few inches taller! I reached down into my purse, took out \$1.50, and put it in the till. As I looked up, I saw him watching me through the window. He smiled, and nodding gratefully and he was gone. Upon arriving for work on Boxing Day, I noticed a small package, wrapped neatly in newspaper, and tied with an old dirty shoelace, shaped like a bow. The other waitress said it was for me. When I opened it, I found a crumpled one dollar bill and two quarters inside, along with a note that said, simple: "Merry Christmas little girl. And thank you!" It was inconceivable to me, that, just by listening for a short while, could pass on such happiness. This truly was one of many memorable Christmases in my lifetime. He will be with his wife and sons now, and at peace, but I shall never forget him, nor will I regret the time I took from my own family just to . . . listen! A very Merry Christmas to you. My wish for you all is not be judgmental because a person is of another race, color, creed, financial status, or because of their appearance. You see, they too, have a heart like yours; red blood like yours; and feelings that can be hurt like yours.

J. DARLINE YUKE, Esterhazy, Sask.

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