It was cold and brisk Saturday as I drove up and down the aisles looking for a parking place at the mall. Quite a hike it turned out to be and I nudged my jacket collar up and braced against the wind. The southern sun twinkled off the plastic holly and glass balls affixed to cars as holiday ornaments.
As I walked, I could only think about how cruel this season is. The pressure that comes from having to fight crowds to buy that “perfect gift” and the endless string of parties with people you don’t like. I felt my spine stiffen with resentment, more with each step.
As I neared the mall entrance, between Luby’s and Dillards, I couldn’t help but notice a small, dark-haired boy sitting dejected on the curb. He couldn’t have been more than twelve years old, and as I drew nearer, I could see he was crying.
The feelings of resentment and anger began melting as I started to open the door. It would have been easy to pass him without another thought. It’s not my problem, right?
I hesitated, then turned and walked back to where the lad sat weeping. “What’s wrong,” was all I could manage to get out. He looked up at me with large watery brown eyes. Slowly he stood to face me.
“Our Christmas money,” he whispered almost choking. “My mother works two jobs to take care of us since dad left last year. She doesn’t have time to shop for us for Christmas.”
“She saved all year, and dropped me off here with two hundred dollars and told me to pick out nice presents for my two sisters, my brother and me.”
“As she drove away, two boys from my school saw me. They are the same boys that shove me on the play ground. Sometimes I’m scared to ride the bus home because they have said they would follow me and hurt me. Mom’s never home when I get there after school. She works so much…”
“One of the boys grabbed one of the hundred dollar bills from me and they both ran away laughing. How can I ever explain to my mother that I could only buy half as much for my sisters and brothers?
I could tell that he had already decided to spend what was left only on them, with no thought for himself. “Did nobody try to help you?” I asked.
“No,” he replied, “They all kept walking by.”
“Did you cry for help?” I asked, really having trouble believing that nobody, I mean NOBODY, would stop to help this poor waif.
“Yes,” he said quietly, “like this – help!”
It was barely more than the whisper that he spoke in. “Is that as loud as you can yell?” I asked, beginning to understand why no one came to his aid.
He nodded, and looked down, ashamed.
I cast a furtive glance around the parking lot to see if anyone was watching. They weren’t. I snatched the other hundred dollar bill from his hands and ran as fast as I could to my car. I never looked back to see if he went for help.
A hundred dollars! It’s going to be a merry Christmas after all!